Danny Oosthuizen, #TheDignityProject ambassador, in his weekly column for the Cape Argus tackles the struggles homeless people face. Picture: David Ritchie/ANA Pictures
Cape Town - What makes a house a home? Is it the love, affection, support and care one receives? The memories in the form of a picture or a vase? The smell of the kitchen?

The dogs jumping up and down when you arrive from work?

The bond of family? The moments around the dinner table, sharing a cooked meal and conversation? The laughs, tears dreams and success shared among you all? The one place where you can shut out the world?

What if home turns into a place of violence, abuse and neglect? Where you hide yourself in the room because mom and dad are fighting again? What if you no longer feel safe there and stay out for as long as possible?

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What if your body is being violated by a family member who is supposed to care about you? What if you want to speak out but can’t?

What if you really don’t have the guts to tell your family you’re gay? What if your boyfriend dumped you while you were pregnant and heartbroken? Maybe you made a mess out of your life and can’t face the shame.

What if your hood is too dangerous due to gang-related shootings so that you can’t even leave your house to go for a walk? What if the schoolground turned into a bully ground? What if drugs are an everyday normality?

What do you do when you can no longer trust anybody around you? What if the church is no longer a safe place?

You want out. You want to get away. But where is away?

Then you look back at a time when you could see the city lights in the distance at night You run to the city. With only the clothes you have on.

Maybe a bit of money you scraped together. Or maybe out of desperation you stole R50 from your granny’s purse. But to the city, you will go.

And in all this, you never thought about how you were going to make it in the city with the bright lights. Where are you going to sleep? What are you going to eat?

The postcard at the station shows a lovely place, filled with beautiful, happy people. And you so want to feel like that. Be part of it all. Where nobody knows your shame, pain and brokenness.

If only it were that easy. Never feeling safe, never feeling fully fed, most of the time tired and with a feeling of not belonging you start to realise that no day is ever the same. And a simple thing like changing a sanitary pad becomes challenging as you can’t afford it.

And here, among the beauty and the bright lights is where we, as homeless people, are seen as second-hand citizens. Undesirables. And the more we are pushed down, the more we become “unmanageable”.

Don’t give hope when you know you can’t really help. Don’t create expectations and false promises to look good.

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* Danny Oosthuizen, #TheDignityProject ambassador, in his weekly column for the Cape Argus tackles the struggles homeless people face.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.