Strandfontein Homeless Action Committee (SHAC) members during their campaign to “decriminalise” the homeless community. Picture: Supplied
Strandfontein Homeless Action Committee (SHAC) members during their campaign to “decriminalise” the homeless community. Picture: Supplied

Despite the City of Cape Town’s hostility, the homeless are getting organised

By Carlos Mesquita Time of article published Jun 15, 2021

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Homelessness is so high on the political agenda for these coming elections that it has kept me hopping, skipping and jumping for most of the last month – and I am not even a politician!

I need to get you all up to speed though, and the one presence that has kept me revitalised and able to push forward with the schedule has been that of my predecessor, Danny, who I can feel is all excited and exhilarated about all the goings-on and is using a dozen expletives while he gets dressed as our cheerleader in high heels, chanting: “Home-less not Vote-less!” – probably to an Abba anthem.

And he would probably even get Amarula (a well-known homeless individual who for years stayed in the Gardens and composed and sang his version of the Bible in his traditional tongue – a kind of African Gregorian chant while shaking his beads) and The Gardens’ own Messai guitar player, Phoenix, involved!

After a year of negotiations, the long-standing Street Peoples’ Forum that represented the homeless sector with no homeless voices in it, is being replaced by The Homeless Action Coalition (the Homeless Action Committee has decided to gift the new organisation (which now comprises a 50-50 representation of service providers and homeless people) with its abbreviation, HAC.

The homeless are currently being invited from all around Cape Town and surrounding areas by Shac and its colleagues (Nehemia Call Initiative, Souper Troopers and Hope Projects) to a meeting of the coalition on June 22.

From there we hand over to the interim board that will receive nominations for the first fully fledged and voted inboard, and an Annual General Meeting that will then see the first board of a new era voted in for Shac.

Also very much on everyone’s lips has been the very uncalled for and unpopular City decision to send out an email questionnaire that portrays homeless people as deviant criminals.

This because they decided that it would not suit their purposes to allow for some people to have had positive encounters with homeless people.

Shac has launched a counter-campaign, and it’s called “Homes Not Handcuffs” and here we ask only one question of both homed and homeless people: TELL US A STORY ABOUT A SITUATION WHEREAS A HOMELESS PERSON/HOMED YOU WERE IMPACTED ON BY THE CRIMINALISATION OF HOMELESS PEOPLE OR HOW SOCIETY OR THE CITY AND IT’S AGENTS TREATS HOMELESS PEOPLE.

The best of these stories will be published in book form with photographs and drawings collected along the journey.

The proceeds of the book will be shared between the published authors of the stories and an organisation in the sector that they nominate.

Should you wish to tell a story, please do – email me at: [email protected] and title it “Homes not Handcuffs”.

So much news but so little space, so let me call it a week by telling you about the Home-less, not Vote-less campaign, which is being spearheaded by The Hope Exchange and supported by Shac.

It began with the Hope Exchange seeking permission to be declared one of the voting hubs, especially for homeless people who often struggle to register in areas they originate from.

Very soon it had grown to 10 areas of focus (which includes approximately 20 suburbs) and The Human Rights Commission and other parties have been instrumental in trying to facilitate the issue of ID cards for the homeless – as most have lost theirs during removals by law enforcement as well as when they were taken to Strandfontein and had to leave their belongings behind.

Shac has trained a group of homeless people to go out with them and inform homeless people about all of these initiatives.

Shac has asked all individuals and businesses that want to give responsibly and with dignity to support these individuals by practically employing them. You can donate R200 (per person per day which includes a meal and their transport), or R1 000 per week or R4 000 per month per person.

Those who donate for a week or a month will be sent daily updates on the progress of their employee.

The campaign started last week and will end in the last week of August, and so R120 000 has to be raised towards this stipend. This donation will impact positively, not only on these 10 lives but also on those they meet and interact with.

Next week I will share some more good news about an employment fund that SHAC will be administering for homeless entrepreneurs.

Feeling hopeful? Well, this week, SO AM I!

* Dedicated to Danny Oosthuizen.

** Carlos Mesquita and a handful of others formed HAC (the Homeless Action Committee) that lobbies for the rights of the homeless. He also manages Our House in Oranjezicht, which is powered by the Community Chest. He can be reached at [email protected]

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

Cape Argus

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