Today, we celebrate Mandela Day. The official theme for this year’s event is “Climate, Food and Solidarity”.
Nelson Mandela would have turned 105 on July 18, 2023, and the Nelson Mandela Foundation says it is more important than ever that we address climate change, persisting and rising levels of poverty, and inequality.
I have decided to honour this theme by addressing the rising levels of poverty and inequality and the impact that this has on the crisis we currently face in the City of Cape Town: homelessness.
We are witnessing a drastic increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness, and although the reasons for people becoming homeless may vary, they all point to one thing – that as a society and as a City, we are constantly becoming more exclusive of those who do not fit our perception of the norm or those whose behaviour we feel is anti-social.
Spurred on by a City administration that has decided to group and define everyone living on our streets as “the homeless,” they offer them cosmetic solutions.
The available options are either housing them in temporary and emergency shelters like safe spaces, which have been proven to be ineffective, or hounding and criminalising them on the streets.
By pursuing this approach, they push those refusing their assistance further away, making them invisible or a nuisance to communities intolerant of anything or anyone that threatens their entitled existence.
I firmly believe that the general public’s incapacity to understand homelessness is our biggest challenge in solving chronic homelessness. Moreover, I believe there is a correlation between the public perception and the policies enacted to deal with the issue.
So, in my role as a previously homeless man who has committed to doing everything in my power to reduce the number of people living on the streets, I have decided to extend the service I offer by writing this column.
I am adding to this effort by launching OUTSIDER, a multimedia platform where everything pertaining to homelessness will be discussed and presented. All the material and presentations will be by those living on the streets and those with lived experience of homelessness.
Most people blame homelessness on the person experiencing it, instead of acknowledging the increasing shortage of affordable housing, lack of employment, a living wage, or the countless reasons that put a person at risk.
This lack of understanding creates a dangerous cycle of misperception that hinders the effective addressing of the root causes of homelessness.
OUTSIDER imagines a world where everyone has a place to call home. Each day, OUTSIDER will work to fight homelessness by giving it a face while educating individuals about the systemic issues that contribute to its existence.
Through storytelling, education, news and activism, OUTSIDER aims to change the narrative on homelessness.
OUTSIDER’s real and unfiltered stories of homelessness aim to shatter stereotypes, demand attention, and deliver a call to action that needs to be answered by governments, major brands, non-profit organisations, and everyday citizens like you.
I will continue to use my column to bring you the latest and most significant aspects of this work.
Today, and for 67 hours thereafter, we will be recording 67 stories as told by individuals experiencing homelessness to package as the first independent series on OUTSIDER, bringing the outside experience of living on the streets inside your home and hearts.
* Carlos Mesquita.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.
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