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Want to engage homeless people? Listen to their demands

A homeless man checks if his clothes have dried up, after he hung on the floor. File picture: Tumi Pakkies/African News Agency(ANA)

A homeless man checks if his clothes have dried up, after he hung on the floor. File picture: Tumi Pakkies/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Sep 29, 2021

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I now focus on the homeless manifesto that we will be taking to the politicians during Homeless Action Week.

We will be requesting their comment and commitment on The Rehoming Collective and how each is addressing the themes contained in our manifesto in their manifestos for the upcoming municipal elections.

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The National Homeless Network kicked this off with the five themes that will be concentrated on for World Homeless Day on October 10.

The first is access to sanitation and ablution. We are suggesting that we implement several simple, proven, hygienic solutions that reduce the daily impact of homelessness on people experiencing homelessness and the community within which they sleep.

The solutions include secure accessible public facilities for ablution and sanitation in each sub-council that are open 18 hours a day throughout the year.

Second, we suggest increased safe sleeping spaces (also a first rung on the housing ladder). We also expect mobile health services that are accessible and friendly to people experiencing homelessness and include support for people suffering from mental ill health.

The third theme is our pet favourite. We expect everyone to be treated equally by the law and its agencies. This will be achieved only if the solutions we look at implementing are developmental rather than punitive. This can only be achieved if the city is to switch its law enforcement policy on homelessness, away from a focus on punitive actions, for example fines, that does not make a person leave the street, to alternative proven and effective social development measures.

The fourth theme is the one I am most passionate about – shelter and accommodation.

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The solution is to increase housing options. No matter how many more shelters we build, of the kind we have and of which the operations model remains the one employed by the City of Cape Town, they will never impact chronic homelessness.

We have to offer increased housing options. The options are as varied as the needs dictate. We need increased housing and accommodation options beyond homeless shelters.

This will include a full housing ladder approach (safe space, shelter, transitional housing, social housing, affordable housing), housing first options offering permanent housing and innovative housing solutions, for example, pods or container houses.

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All accommodation should be linked to daily developmental, rehabilitation and training programmes and cannot be a short-term arrangement, as is the norm in the sector where the average stay in a shelter is about 90 days.

The fifth and final theme is about increasing economic opportunity. This means expanding meaningful employment opportunities.

We can achieve this by providing at least 1 000 long-term work-based skills development opportunities for people experiencing homelessness as part of a structured developmental rehabilitation programme, including therapy, training and skills development.

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Provision has to be made for incentives and implementing quotas for businesses and the City of Cape Town to hire graduates of such developmental programmes.

In a nutshell, these are the five aspects of homelessness that we are going to explore as our main activity each day during Homeless Action Week.

The discussions will be held everyday from 10am to 2pm at the YMCA in Observatory. Then, on the Sunday, we plan to hand over the manifesto to political parties and the mayoral candidates for Cape Town for comment during a webinar available online for everyone to partake in.

Looking forward to this? 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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