File picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)
File picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

Homeless people set to make their voices heard with new committee

By Carlos Mesquita Time of article published Jun 23, 2021

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It’s going too be another hectic week.

Today sees the first meeting of homeless people from across Cape Town, to engage with one another and, ultimately, make their voices heard on issues that impact their lives.

Although the SHAC and the Homeless Hub have covered as much territory as possible to seek representation for all homeless people in Cape Town and surrounds, it has been a daunting task with the time allotted to meet the Homeless Action Coalition deadlines. The process will be ongoing.

We have, however, covered a significant number of areas and were it not for Covid-19 regulations, a lot more than 50 would be in Woodstock representing their area, informing on what will become the issues that will be advocated by the coalition as well as becoming members of the coalition.

The Homeless Action Coalition (HAC) will comprise 50% service providers and 50% homeless/re-homed people. The members will elect 10 board members, five on each side.

The HAC is finalising the organisation’s constitution and will eventually and effectively take over where the defunct bodies of The Street People’s Forum and the Homeless Action Committee left off.

Another exciting announcement this week is shared by the Strandfontein Homeless Action Committee. A year ago, while at the Community Chest’s building at 82 Bree street, it was decided that the SHAC would be granted a jobs fund to administer on behalf of the homeless individuals who had been at Strandfontein, gone on to Bree Street and then on to either Our House, Youth Solutions or Culemburg Safe Space 2.

Unfortunately, it has taken an unpleasant process to get the funds released by the Community Chest.

Eventually, after a long drawn-out process, the funds have been released.

Today, I have the pleasure of announcing the SHAC Homeless Job fund powered by the Community Chest is open for business.

Any homeless person who went to Strandfontein, was in tent two and formed part of the group that moved into 82 Bree street and is living at Oak Lodge (our House), Culemburg Safe Space 2 or Youth Solutions and is also in compliance with the other conditions of the fund, as per the list of criteria issued jointly by the SHAC and the Community Chest, can apply.

The aim is to choose business proposals that have been well thought out and considered, those that seem to be most viable and sustainable and those that will empower other homeless people.

Meetings have been held with the qualifying individuals and we are sending out the application forms.

After applications have been completed and attached to a copy of the individual’s ID, a three-member committee will decide on the qualifiers for a second round of judging.

Another three-member committee will then take the decision on who gets funded. Payment is effected within a week of the applicant being notified of their success.

A reporting and supportive mechanism to keep track of the projects every quarter has been put in place to ensure the funds are being used for the purpose they were intended. It is also to ensure accountability and that we offer support to those who might struggle to get their small businesses off the ground.

Application forms are available from my office at Our House.

This, however, brings me to the big challenge we face at our House.

As most of you know by now, we were shocked to have had our rental funding agreement with the Community Chest unexpectedly terminated.

This termination, as per our understanding of the various discussions and communications entered into in January this year, happen only if the landlord, who was putting the property on auction, sold the place. Thereafter, there would be a suitable notice period and exit support plan from Community Chest to Our House.

On April 30, we were given a month’s notice to vacate the property.

We have refused and have had to resort to lawyers as the Community Chest prohibited me from contacting it, referring all communications to its lawyers. The Community Chest went so far as saying that it had no agreements with us.

The agreement about the jobs fund signed in April last year, which has, at its core, the prerequisites for applying to the fund, stipulates that we have to be accommodated at either Oak Lodge, Youth Solutions or Culemburg.

In its letter to me a week ago, Community Chest said we were occupying the house illegitimately.

Confused? So am I.

* 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.

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