June & July Updates
Over the last two months we have seen a lot taking place in the wider homeless sector. We have had the privilege of commenting on and contributing towards finding sustainable solutions for a number of the issues faced my the homeless community. We have continued with a process of strategic planning over the last two months and done deeper research into the areas of homelessness, employment, addiction and mental health. As a board we have found this journey to be challenging yet exciting as we have explored how what we are learning informs our current ‘Road to Independence’ programme. We are excited for how this journey of learning, discovering and strategic planning will result in potential new things for our programme and the beneficiaries that form part of it.
Thoughts From Our Team
The bible is full of sometimes seemingly arbitrary requests for obedience, following the guidance of the Spirit and the call of God on people within a chaotic world. But when you stand back and consider the bigger theme and story, a sense of awe and understanding settles on your heart and mind, alongside a renewed passion to step into, and be a part, of those seemingly haphazard acts of obedience. It can often be that way in relationships – and often more so within the relational sphere of connecting with those from very different cultural or socio economic experiences of life. And yet it is exactly within those spheres that I know it is only God who sees into each heart and knows precisely what is needed to bring growth, harmony, light and transformation to each one of us. As someone most comfortable with logic and reason, it doesn’t come automatically to me to see with the eyes of the spirit, to walk by faith not sight. To make difficult decisions affecting people’s hopes and dreams.
It has been said that ‘The opposite of addiction is connection’. As anyone who has received a smile from a stranger knows, the power of a tiny connective act has a seemingly disproportionate ripple effect. I believe this is the power at work within the Kingdom of God – such acts can’t be measured in graphs or success rates – and I want a part of it. Absolutely nothing is too small or insignificant not to have an effect. God has a massive lever just waiting to wedge in and grip under the tiniest act of faith in love.
Thank you for journeying with us in these tiny acts that we all bring together – prayer, time, finances, words. One day we’ll see the sparkling tapestry of it all!
- Liz Wonnacott
Making News Headlines
At the beginning of July the City of Cape Town took action against the Homeless community by fining the homeless who were infringing on the Cities bylaws. There was an outcry from the homeless community and organizations who work with, support and advocate on their behalf stating that this was infringing on basic human rights and therefore unconstitutional.
“According to the City of Cape Town, the main reason they're justifying the fining of homeless people is that most homeless people don't want to be helped.
But if you do some basic research it's easy to figure out that there simply isn't enough shelter space in Cape Town for all the homeless to be sheltered. Therefore issuing fines for breaking by-laws to people who cannot prevent breaking by-laws is cruel and harsh punishment for being homeless.
Let’s also consider that it's not easy living in a shelter. You're sleeping in a dorm with 30 - 60 other people. If you have a substance use disorder you are not allowed in the shelter. You are only allowed to stay for up to 3 months and it can be extended to 6 months. There are not adequate services in shelters to deal with mental illness. And many more reasons why it's difficult to live in a shelter.” - Richard Bolland (New Hope Board Member)
The Street People’s Form released a statement concerning this matter:
"Whilst bylaws are necessary, their application in the case of fining homeless persons for sleeping on pavements is problematic not least because the result amounts to targeting and criminalising an already vulnerable and marginalised group in our society. As long as totally insufficient suitable alternatives exist, resorting to this law enforcement approach, although it misguidedly may intend to, does not provide a solution to this complex issue and largely only results in the displacement of people at enormous expense and trauma. And this for seemingly only the benefit of part of our society. Unless the interests of all of society are addressed equally, there is no justice in the action.
We call on the CoCT
Not to act unilaterally with regards to the Homeless
To immediately stop the fining of homeless persons in dealing with them.
To drop/retract/scrap all fines that have been issued to homeless persons this year due to the application of the by-law in question.
To immediately suspend that part of the by-law on streets, public places and the prevention of noise nuisances being applied in the particular situation, pending review.
To call a Summit for all those connected to and concerned about the plight of the Homeless with the aim of gaining a deeper understanding of the dynamics of the issue and finding greater consensus on how to deal with it.
The main problems that face the sector dealing with homelessness include:
1. A lack of capacity – the city says that they have, and that there exist programmes and services for homeless people but it is clear that there are, by any measure, not nearly enough. Shelter spaces and services are not at all on par with the rising cases of homelessness. It is estimated, for example, that there are over 9000+ cases of homelessness in Cape Town but only less than 2000 beds in shelters (and even fewer social services). There is also a huge and serious lack of mental health and old age facilities (hospices) and services and accessible health care for street people.
2. Lack of current applicable research and reliable data - The last official survey was conducted in 2015, but the landscape of homeless is shifting all the time, we need up-to-date data so that exit programmes can be geared appropriately. Instead of measuring activities (e.g. number of people seen by an outreach worker), the city should be measuring outcomes (the number of people who have successfully found suitable/compatible assistance and left the street long term). In this way, they can be held accountable as to whether they are utilising tax payers money (i.e. our money) effectively in their response to homelessness. The various different categories of homelessness also ought to be taken into consideration here: street children, abused women, the LGBTQI+ community, migrant workers, the elderly, homeless families, the mentally handicapped, etc.
3. Lack of policy review and implementation – We call for an immediate review of all policies pertaining to street people including: the by-laws, the Street People’s Policy of 2013, the ‘norms and standards’ of 2012 for shelters. The national, provincial and local government must show a clear commitment to putting sustainable solutions forward and being rigorous in the implementation of these (reviewed) policies.
4. A lack of long-term solutions and Simplistic thinking – Change is possible but it takes a long time. Saying that homeless people choose to live on the streets and actively refuse services to self-sabotage themselves is misguided. Those who are on the streets are often in survival mode. Many are disillusioned with current ‘services to the homeless’ as they have cycled through the shelter system numerous times. Particularly the services needed to take the ‘next step’ out of homelessness are not enough - a few months later the person is back on the streets and nothing has changed. If there is anything that our collective work in this sector has taught us it is that we need to come alongside people, build trust and then walk a journey of change with them. Different kinds of assistance are needed at different points along the journey, including harm reduction approaches, drop-in centres, substance abuse rehab, phased accommodation (shared/safe space, shelter, 2nd phase shelter, transition housing, affordable housing – all of which there is currently a significant shortage), mental health facilities, skills training, sheltered work experience, therapy, counselling and community. Whilst an outreach worker can start the conversation, the current city outreach programme is not set up to walk this rehabilitative journey with people. Those other programmes that offer this are by far not enough. It is also clear to us that homelessness cannot simply fall within the scope of Departments of Social Development. Homelessness is a complex issue, and thus all the sectors of government which deal with these areas should be engaged in trying to create sustainable pathways out of homeless (examples include governmental departments dealing with housing, health, tourism and transport).
5. Lack of collaboration with NGOs and the homeless community – There are organisations working to reduce homelessness, and while the city does fund some of these initiatives, there is far more room for collaboration and collective solutions than what has been explored so far. Indeed, in choosing to fine the homeless, the city has acted unilaterally on an issue in which there are many stakeholders. CoCT must recognise that there is an active civil society and NGO sector organising itself around homelessness, which it has the opportunity to engage in its policy decisions. The ‘NGO Forums’, the ‘Shelter Forums’ and ‘HOMAC’ for example ought to be far more participatory and collaborative.
6. Privileged and top-down thinking - Homeless people are people, they have agency, dreams, hopes and aspirations. Instead of this reality being recognised, the homeless are often treated like children who need to be disciplined. There are, in fact, often logical and understandable reasons for why people resort to making the street their home and engage in behaviours that others deem as ‘anti-social’. Many street people also experience an abusive relationship with authority – most interactions with authority for homeless people are painful and abusive; there are many accounts of homeless people being raided by police and having their possessions taken.
The CoCT undermines the dignity and humanity of the homeless by excluding them from conversations about homelessness and punishing them for their homelessness – which is clearly the result of a complex interplay of historical, socio-political, economic and spatial factors.
We call on the City to realise that the City is but one of many agencies who face the problem of homelessness and that no single agency is in a position to deal effectively with it unilaterally.
We call on the City to, in consultation with all stakeholders, deal ruthlessly and efficiently with the problem of homelessness, but gently and compassionately with the homeless.
We therefore call on the CoCT and civil society to acknowledge that:
Commitment is needed for building the capacity of services to the homeless.
Commitment is needed for regular survey data to be conducted and published.
Commitment is needed to urgently review all policies pertaining to homelessness and to show commitment in their implementation.
A holistic and integrated response to homelessness is needed which is collaborative, and both intersectoral and interdepartmental.
Commitment is needed that the City will work and collaborate closely with the NGO sector, homeless people themselves and other relevant stakeholders.
Commitment is needed that the City will recognise homeless people as citizens who deserve their basic rights under the South African Constitution, and that the city's primary duty is to ensure that these rights are upheld.
Commitment is needed to partake in an urgent Summit to be held on the state of homelessness in Cape Town with the aim of gaining a deeper understanding of the dynamics of the issue and finding greater consensus on how to deal with it, to which all relevant stakeholders be invited – we call on the City to provide a date and venue for this.
We call on the whole of Society to get positively involved:
1. To recognise the complex plight of the homeless and then to offer help, not condescendment.
2. We ought to take this opportunity as citizens of Cape Town to join hands, to build partnerships and collaborations across the city so that together we can overcome the entrenched societal ills that keep people on the streets. Particular in this regard is professional legal advice for the many street people who face abuse of any kind or who have lately been fined. Those in the legal fraternity who can do so are called on to please get in touch with the chairperson of the SPF.
3. All are also invited to join a March on 18th of July 2019 to Parliament to put forward the above issues. "
Richard Bolland was recently interviewed on SAFM to comment on the recent murders of homeless people in Pretoria. You can listen to the interview here.
Mary moved from Boston House in Bellville to Loaves and Fishes in the month of June. While at Loaves and Fishes she went through a rough patch which resulted in her leaving. She was then able to get into Napier Street Haven Night Shelter in Green Point, where she is currently. The last two months have not been easy for Mary as a result of certain decisions she has made. We are trusting that in the next couple months she will again find stability in her recovery and continue on her journey towards independence.
Over the last two months Hlubi has remained at The Hope Exchange where he has received support and counselling from their social worker. Unfortunately Hlubi did not complete The Zanokhanyo Network course, and has taken a few setbacks in terms of finding work. Therefore he is still unemployed but unfortunately not showing the motivation needed to find work at this point. We are trusting that over the next month we may see a shift and Hlubi starting to take more initiative and showing his motivation to move towards independence.
We are so encouraged by the progress that Daniel has made over the last couple of months. He is continuing to work at Builders Warehouse where he is earning a stable salary. He has starting taking on more financial responsibility as he prepares to move out of The Hope Exchange and become fully independent in the next few months. We are incredibly proud of the way he has persevered despite many obstacles standing in his way. We look forward to seeing him graduate our program into independence.
After some discussions, Roger feels that he has reached a point in his recovery where he would like to explore moving off our programme and continuing his journey on his own. He has made enormous progress over the year of being on our programme and he has been clean and stable for the entire time. Roger has big dreams of one day opening a ‘recovery home’ for others. We will continue meeting with him on a monthly basis and will be providing what follow-up support we can, but in many ways Roger is going to be exploring a new season of independence and is going to brave the world and many of its challenges with determination. We wish him everything of the best and continue to pray that much fruit will come from his commitment and devotion to allowing his life to be transformed.
After some setbacks, Walter is learning some important life lessons and is growing in self-awareness. We have received some very positive feedback from family members who have said “He is like a new person”. We see family reunification as an important part in the journey towards healthy independence, and although there is still much work to be done, we are really proud of Walter for starting to make some very important steps towards this over the last month.
Peter has made some important progress in his journey. He has recently made the decision to start studying and to further his qualifications. For those of you who don’t know, Peter is extremely passionate about motorcycles and is wanting to study something mechanical. His first option is to do some courses in 3D parametric design. If anyone is interested in sponsoring Peter towards this new chapter of his life, he would be trilled! We are so excited for this new season of Peter’s life and are encouraged and inspired by his ambitions and his motivation.
*Names have been changed for anonymity
It has been a very full last few months in the homeless sector and we have all been very busy, with the crisis around the fining of homeless people, Mandela Day and at New Hope the ongoing strategic planning process and continued work with our participants. Thank you for your support and ongoing commitment to believing that there is ‘new hope’ for the homeless and that together we can find sustainable solutions.