Cape Town - World Homeless Day was commemorated in an unusual manner this year, with a memorial service and vigil held for those who had died while living on the streets, those who are considered missing and for those feeling despondent because of their circumstances.
World Homeless Day is commemorated annually on October 10.
On Saturday, Community Chest hosted the memorial service at Groote Kerk in Adderley Street. The service was limited to just over 100 guests in keeping with the Covid-19 regulations.
Spokesperson Desiré Goliath said Community Chest had increasingly intervened in the plight of the homeless as a social justice imperative.
“We placed a human face to homelessness and demonstrated that, with humanity, care and dignity, lives are changed,” said Goliath.
The service was led by More Than Peace’s Reverend Annie Kirke. Candles were lit for 52 people known to have died on Cape Town’s streets.
“It was significant for a few reasons. It was the first time there has been a memorial service of that kind, where people who had died while on the streets were remembered and honoured,” said Kirke.
Those who had submitted their names were given an opportunity to share a few words about their lives.
“It was very moving hearing the incredible humanity, kindness, generosity and self leadership through the stories that were shared. The opportunity for people who are homeless to speak about being homeless and the grief of losing other people who were homeless, considered as family.”
Kirke called the service powerful. “These days are marked as symbolic of a consciousness and a desire to see an end to homelessness. We were very clear it wasn’t a celebration but an invitation to remember and lament, and work towards ending homelessness by supporting the people who are homeless and tackling social injustices.”
In May, prior to SA’s harsh winter settling, Community Chest had invited over 150 homeless people found at Culemborg bridge in Cape Town CBD, to take up shelter at its offices in Bree Street. The group found themselves back onto the streets following the closure of the Strandfontein temporary shelter for the homeless.