Seeking new residence: 'We live in hope despite our houseless challenge'
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What a week it’s been. All the highs and lows you could imagine reared their heads.
First, there was our decision to not vacate the house we have been staying in when the one-month notice period we were given was up.
A great deal happened not only to us, the formerly homeless people, who were now employed and accommodated in a house up for sale, but also to the funder and the landlord due to Covid-19, which would see them both having to end their commitments to us. And we understand this.
What we don’t understand is how the funder decided to end its funding relationship with us and has managed the situation since taking that decision.
The rental funder seems to accept no liability in having played a crucial role in our upliftment.
When you house and uplift people who were homeless for a limited-time project and it is successful, it should go without saying that your commitment extends beyond that research period.
This is to ensue that those who you empowered and uplifted are safely and sustainably in their next phase, for which they are then responsible without your assistance. But they require ample time to first adjust and then act on their new challenge.
To make matters worse, there was lots of talk about assisting us to find more sustainable accommodation, when “in May we should start looking for another place, possibly renting to buy”. But ultimately, they were going to assist us as rent funders to ensure the residents of the house would continue feeling secure in their futures.
In April – for the first time – there was mention of a “three-months exit plan being worked on”. During the last week of May, a week before were expected to leave the only home we have known for almost a year, we were finally invited to hear the exit plan.
The offer made would not have kept us accommodated even for an extra month at our current venue, let alone the costs of moving 31 residents as well. So despite never having wanted to be at odds with the landlord, who has always been accommodating and good to us, we had no choice but to not vacate while we try to reach an agreement with the rental funder.
Unfortunately, the landlord has not taken this well and instead of assisting us to put pressure on the rental funder (as the contract is between the funder and the landlord), she unfortunately opted for threats and harassment of the residents, who have no agreement with her whatsoever.
Now we are again waiting to see what offer the rental funder comes up with and we are scrambling around to see if we can solve the lack of available venue from which to run “our house” the Homeless Hub and The Rehoming Collective.
I continue to approach the City and the provincial government for possible assistance with old unused houses and buildings and am hoping for a quick resolution.
As the eternal optimist, I live in hope, and despite it having been a horrific week overall, clouded by the insecurities brought about by our “houseless challenge”, the Lord found a way of making everything more bearable.
On Thursday, the homeless sector (service providers and the homeless they are mandated to assist) met for the first time after the proposal I had put forward had been accepted and the old Street People’s Forum was to become The Homeless Action Coalition. Representatives from both groups met to start discussions on finalising the organisation's constitution.
Another exciting development was Shac’s (Strandfontein Homeless Action Committee) decision to respond with a counter questionnaire when the City put out a questionnaire for civil society and businesses to complete – it amounted to nothing short of the City projecting homeless people to be criminals and deviants.
The reaction to this protest was such that as of this past Sunday, two new campaigns will be headed by Shac and supported by other organisations in response to that questionnaire.
The campaigns are titled “Homes, not Handcuffs” and “Homeless not Voteless”, and next week I will tell you all about those and how some homeless individuals with entrepreneurial potential will soon be able to access a jobs fund to be administered by Shac!
Living in hope? 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.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.
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