Carlos Mesquita writes that despite his experience and opinion being seemingly in high demand by officials in tackling homelessness, it became obvious there is no will or intention to assist in trying to home the homeless with dignity. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)
Carlos Mesquita writes that despite his experience and opinion being seemingly in high demand by officials in tackling homelessness, it became obvious there is no will or intention to assist in trying to home the homeless with dignity. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)

Let homeless people be sheltered with dignity

By Carlos Mesquita Time of article published Aug 18, 2021

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This week I present this column as an open letter to Premier Alan Winde, mayor Dan Plato, the mayco member for health, and the directors in the Department of Social Development:

Sheltering the homeless with dignity refers.

I’ve worked in this sector for over a decade and received commendations from some mayco members and a minister for Social Development. Being homeless taught me more about the subject than my years at university.

For over a year, I vowed to take the horrible Strandfontein experience and turn it into some good and a benefit for homeless people. I kept my word in trying to give them a voice, and civil society and government a conscience.

As a response to how delegates at the Inkathalo Conversations felt about the current system to home the homeless, I started work on a 10-year plan that would reduce and eventually eradicate chronic homelessness. Part of this plan is in the independent living space called Our House, successfully run for 18 months without state funding.

Despite numerous attempts to derail the plan, we proudly boast an employment success rate of 87%.

We have had 103 individuals in the programme. Only three returned to the streets. Since I founded Our House and The Rehoming Collective, I’ve shared my vision with all of you, except the premier. I also appealed for unused buildings to be released for us.

Despite my experience and opinion being seemingly in high demand by you, it became obvious there is no will or intention for you to assist in trying to home the homeless with dignity.

An example is Vredehoek, where the councillor asked me to come up with a plan “to rid the area of its problematic groupings of chronically homeless people” in Van Riebeeck Park, Lower De Waal and Buitenkant Street.

We could look at the vacant Robbie Neurock building I had been speaking to Dr Zahid Badroodien about since December, as a place to run upliftment, empowerment and employment programmes for the homeless.

I had managed to get an 89% buy-in from people living in those areas. I then tried to contact the councillor – to no avail. I hear Robbie Neurock is being offered by the provincial government to other stakeholders – that have not even applied or conceptualised a service to offer from this venue.

The minister is in receipt of four urgent emails, dating back to March, enquiring about the possibility of this building being considered for us to home individuals in the area. We also offered to bring in other reputable organisations – such as Stand, and Anchored Lives – and open a needed homeless hub, which would employ rehomed individuals to offer referral services, as well as 24-hour hot-lines.

We have been feeding, housing and uplifting, empowering and employing homeless individuals – that are the City’s responsibility – successfully for a year-and-a-half, without a single cent, meal or blanket from your side.

We have had massive media exposure for our successes. Yet you chose to ignore a realistic, well-researched proposal, and you mislead ratepayers and – again – disappoint the homeless.

Kindly explain to me – and to those that work with me beyond their call of duty, the long-suffering homeless residents and frustrated homed residents – why do you seem to reject a concept of rehoming the homeless with dignity?

* 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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