Strandfontein Homeless Action Committee members during their campaign to “decriminalise” the homeless community.
Strandfontein Homeless Action Committee members during their campaign to “decriminalise” the homeless community.

Committee on a campaign to 'decriminalise' the homeless in response to City’s form

By Mthuthuzeli Ntseku Time of article published Jun 8, 2021

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Cape Town - In response to the City of Cape Town’s apparent lack of care for the poor, the Strandfontein Homeless Action Committee (SHAC) has embarked on a campaign to “decriminalise” the homeless community.

The campaign is a protest against the contents of the City’s recent questionnaire that asked residents and business ratepayers to report their experiences with homeless people.

The campaign is divided into five phases with the “Homes not Handcuffs” phase that started on Monday.

During the campaign the committee will be collecting stories from the homeless community about criminal incident(s) that happened to them and have witnessed as a violation of their rights, including lack of access to services due no IDs.

Homeless Action Committee member Carlos Mesquita said the committee was inundated with stories from the homeless community and decided to extend its response to the City in both scope and time.

“Today we announce the second and third phase of this protest against what can only be termed an attempt to portray homeless people as deviants and criminals by the City. We find this unacceptable and will endeavour to show the City and every citizen, the other side of homelessness.

“In the hope that these stories will (have an) impact on the public and leaders of our communities and City, the stories collected during both the second and third phase campaigns will be collated and shared in a book to be illustrated by images collected during a photographic recording of the entire process,” he said.

Mesquita said profits from the book would be shared between those whose stories were published and the organisations/causes nominated by those whose stories were chosen.

Mesquita said SHAC had also availed itself to mobilise homeless people to take advantage of the opportunity created by The Hope Exchange in ensuring homeless people can register to vote in the local elections,” he said.

Mayoral Committee Member for community services and health Zahid Badroodien said the City’s social development programme for people living on the street included access to substance abuse rehabilitation, reintegration into society, obtaining IDs and social grants and access to short-term job opportunities through the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) including provision of safe spaces to supplement bed space at shelters.

“The Social Development and Early Childhood Development (SDECD) has a Street People Reintegration Unit that conducts daily outreach activities in areas where people living on the street gather. Unit members are tasked with building relationships with street people, and engaging with them about their needs and what assistance can be offered to them,” he said.

Badroodien said over the past two to three years, SDECD had distributed R50 million to organisations working with vulnerable groups, including street people organisations.

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Cape Argus

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