Cape Town - When the Cape Argus embarked on The Dignity Project last year, the goal was to change the perceptions of the citizens of Cape Town towards the homeless, by highlighted their plight and their stories in a dignified way.
A little more than a year on, not only has the editorial project had an impact on perceptions, but there are also tangible gains the homeless have experienced as a result of being placed front and centre.
Khulisa Social Solutions strategic partnerships manager Jesse Laitinen, with whom the Cape Argus partnered last year, said the project has had an incredible effect.
"The first Dignity Project really opened a door for a whole new way of engaging. It was the first time the voices of the homeless were aired and heard. And once the door was open there was no way of going back! Danny (Oosthuizen) has had a powerful voice with his column every week, a real ambassador for everyone that has been left behind," she said.
Oosthuizen, who has been living on the streets on-and-off for the past four years, has become a regular feature in the Cape Argus newsroom. He also acts as an ambassador for the Dignity Project.
"The Dignity Project has changed everything. I got to learn about the dynamics of being human. Because at the end of the day, we are all the same - the same universal needs, desires, expectations for tomorrow," he said.
With the Cape Argus now embarking on Dignity in Action, the plan is to highlight the successes of some of the people who are helping top make the lives of the homeless better.
Khulisa's Streetscapes project is one such programme, having employed more than 100 homeless people to work in two urban vegetable gardens which now supply some of the top restaurants in Cape Town.
Fasal Cafe owner Albert Salumu has been purchasing vegetables and herbs from the Roeland Street garden for the past four years.
He uses the ingredients to craft his delicious burgers, sandwiches, salads and wraps.
"The vegetables are always fresh, and always good."
Salumu has also employed a number of homeless people temporarily over the years.
"The gardens have similarly made it possible for residents and the homeless to engage with each other on a more equal footing," Laitinen said. "When people come shop or visit, they look at the gardeners with respect and acknowledge their work! It heals all of us. Nobody is invisible anymore. We are all just people and through work we have a ticket to ride! I’ve always said that the plants are a great medium - they get us to talk to one another, to see each other with new eyes. As did the Dignity Project."
Streetscapes is looking to build its third urban garden. You can help by donating via https://www.thundafund.com:443/project/streetscapes