It is important to consider homelessness and prevention from a rights-based perspective. Many national governments, including Canada, are signatories to international treaties and covenants that provide a basis for the claim that access to housing are human rights. For example, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) declares that all signatory states must “recognize the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing, and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions”.
Further, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, to which Canada is a signatory, states: “Indigenous Peoples have the right, without discrimination, to the improvement of their economic and social conditions, including, inter alia, in the areas of education, employment, vocational training and retraining, housing, sanitation, health, and social security”. This means that all people are rights holders. Incorporating a human rights perspective creates an obligation to target systemic causes of homelessness and not simply react after things go wrong.
A rights-based approach to homelessness prevention means changing the way policy decisions and investments are made and ensures that a policy and funding framework is in place to hold all orders of government responsible for addressing their role in preventing people from becoming homeless, including health, child protection, justice, and others.