We have popped the Champagne corks and gatecrashed 2024!
The year 2023 was, in so far as my activism for finding dignified and sustainable pathways off the streets for those experiencing homelessness, again a mixture of the best of the best and the worst of the worst.
So I have decided to travel light but not entirely weightless into 2024. Hopefully this will assist me in scaling greater heights while remaining firmly grounded.
So, let me start off by getting rid of my biggest frustrations of 2023:
1. The lack of political will by City of Cape Town, the Western Cape provincial government and the national government to address the issue of homelessness even when presented with potential solutions.
2. The absence of organisations that spent the past two years representing those experiencing homelessness in encampments across the city against evictions without sustainable alternatives being in place when it mattered, resulting in regrettable orders being granted against their clients.
3. Mayor of Cape Town, Geordin Hill-Lewis acting in ways that clearly showed he had no intention of sustainably addressing the homelessness crisis. He lied, he manipulated situations and he spun, all in an effort to cover up the fact that the City’s investment in the homeless sector through safe spaces and grants in aid has little to do with with sustainably addressing the growing numbers on our streets.
4. People and organisations who pose as champions of those living on the streets for selfish reasons and in the process impact negatively on those trying to do good.
Now that I feel a great deal lighter, let me highlight those things in 2023 that lightened my load:
1. My appointment as researcher in the Provincial Legislature takes first prize as it provided me with my first job since I left homelessness where I was not being abused at every imaginable level because I was at the disadvantage of having been homeless, as was the case with the organisations I worked for in the homeless sector prior to this appointment. The appointment also provided me with the opportunity to take my advocacy to a higher level when I was asked to assist in formulating a housing policy and a policy on homelessness.
2. My having been invited to contribute to the formulation of a policy on homelessness for the UN as well as being invited to present at various international conferences such as the IJOH (International Journal on Homelessness) conference, as these added credibility to the work I do.
3. Launching Outsider, my multimedia platform that seeks to inform on homelessness based on my own lived experience and that of others, real stories, research and international best practices, thereby changing people’s prejudiced and often false perceptions of those experiencing homelessness.
” 4. My continued association the Cape Argus and IOL, as their columnist on homelessness, continues to afford me the opportunity to have an impact on people’s perceptions of those living on the streets and is thus also one of my highlights.
And so now for my Hopes for 2024.
1. I am hoping that my long laboured book, Outsider: Being! Becoming! Belonging! will hit the shelves and add yet another level to helping change long-held false perceptions and have a positive impact on the political will to solve this issue.
2. That everyone serious and sincere about wanting to see a reduction in the number of those living on our streets will let go of personal and political agendas and focus on the goal we are all meant to share.
3. That everyone realises the importance of qualifying and quantifying those living on the streets and utilising that data as the basis for the services being offered, thereby stopping the wasteful expenditure on resources proven to be failed interventions.
4. That communities see the value of establishing Homeless Hubs and recognise that communities (both homed and homeless) working together hold the key to reducing chronic homelessness and to preventing homelessness.
5. I am hoping that post the 2024 elections, we will be governed by a national party that prioritises developing a policy on homelessness and that that policy will ensure both the provincial and municipal spheres of government work together with communities towards reducing the number of people living on our streets. And that this will be done with compassion and dignity and guided by the rights that people living on the streets are entitled to, as enshrined in our country’s hard fought for Constitution.
Here is wishing you all a very prosperous, safe, friendly and neighbourly 2024, and may we come to this moment next year in good health, good spirits, so we will all be able to say, “let’s just do more of what we did in 2024 in 2025”.
* Carlos Mesquita.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.
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