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By Fr. Thomas Aquinas SDB
Maheshwari Balan in the panel at UN
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New Delhi, Feb. 10. ''Digital technology at the service of ending homelessness'' is the topic under which Miss. Maheshwari Balan presented the model of DB YaR Forum at the United Nations on 9 February 2021. This program was conducted as a side event at the 59th session of the commission for social Development.
The Salesian Intervention for children on the street seized the opportunity to show case its pioneering work of tracking missing and run away children. Ms. Maheswari Balan, YaR's researcher and data analyst serving as one of the six panelists in the webinar ''Digital Technology at the Service of Ending Homelessness' held on 9th February, highlighted the main features of the intervention through its technical tools: Child MISS online platform, Child PPa(biometric tool to establish identity), Child MISS mobile app. The occasion was the 59th Session of the Commission For Social Development being held from 8th to 17th of February at the UN HQ in New York. The Commission proceedings centers around the priority theme ''Socially just transition towards sustainable development: the role of digital technologies on social development and well-being of all.''

The side event organized by the Congregation of the Mission and Sisters of Charity Federation was co-sponsored by the Salesian Mission Inc. Last year during the Commission For Social Development Salesian Missions Inc had organized the side event ''Youth Homelessness: Interrogating Policy Gaps and Legislative Vacuum.'' It had three Salesians on the panel: Fr. Rafo Pinosa from Slovenia, Fr. Antoine Farrugia from Malta and Fr. Koshy Thomas from India. The presentation by Ms. Maheswari Balan showcased how digital technology is being used to track, rescue, rehabilitate and restore children on the street thus reducing the extent of homelessness.

With over 11 million homeless children in India, one needs all the resourcefulness and innovativeness that human mind can think of to address this critical issue. Maheshwari Balan, ably supported by the program director Fr. Thomas Aquinas, highlighted the fact that through these technical platforms YaR has been able to reach out to 309279 children. Of these 75% have been restored to their parents. Those who are unable to be home placed are provided with a secure family environment in institutions that provide children with education, health and the skills needed to be gainfully employed.

107 participants who attended the webinar had the opportunity to listen to five other panelists who spoke about their digital interventions to address homelessness. They were: Bill Soward, Executive Director, Shelter Tech, Renato Lima, International President, Confederation of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Lydia Stazen, Executive Director, Institute of Global Homelessness, Rajarshi Sircar, Resource Mobilizer, Loreto Rainbow Homes. The side event was moderated by Sr. Teresa Kotturan, the UN representative of the Sisters of Charity Federation. Salesian representative to the UN Fr. Thomas Pallithanam SDB was part of the organising committee. (Prepared by Fr. Thomas Pallithanam)
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