It’s been three years since I first introduced Homeless Action Week in Cape Town.
The idea has always been to use the week prior to World Homeless Day on October 10 to highlight the plight of those living on the streets.
This year is no different. OUTSIDER will this year focus on the lack of personal identification documents — a serious impediment, preventing those experiencing homelessness from accessing services to help them in regaining their self-sufficiency.
As a previously homeless man, I know the hell of living without an ID.
It denies you the option of working legally, opening a bank account, or signing a lease.
Lack of identification can even prevent people from entering temporary shelters.
This issue disproportionately affects homeless people, whose ID documents are often removed by some law enforcement agencies or stolen along with backpacks hidden in drains.
This year’s Homeless Action Week focus is: Putting the ID back in DIgnity!
Our mission is to empower individuals and families to end their homelessness and rebuild their lives by providing the critical first step of identification replacement services.
Our vision is to eliminate barriers to obtaining identification documents.
Our belief statement is that a person’s ability to get a piece of paper or plastic card should not be what stops them from ending their homelessness.
I will never forget the day on the Grand Parade where my possessions were confiscated by law-enforcement officers.
I had bought a new tent and phone the previous week, and had also obtained my ID. I was desperate not to lose these items that had already opened up an opportunity for me to leave the streets.
My contact numbers were on the phone.
I was receiving e-wallets so that I could obtain my ID (which I had now done) and sort out other relevant steps.
Losing those items would take me back to square one.
The officers persisted in ignoring my requests for me to retrieve these items from the tent.
In desperation, I jumped up to grab the part of the tent that was hanging over the edge of the truck.
Two of the officers pulled me down to the ground and kept me down, knees on my chest, each emptying their cannister of pepper spray in my eyes. They left me blinded for two weeks, without stock for my stall and an end to what could potentially have ended my homelessness.
While a number of organisations obtain funding for assisting those living on the streets without IDs, it tends to have the same impact as the “Give Dignity” campaign.
It is limited in its impact as it helps only those who are involved in programmes that require an ID by that particular organisation.
Unfortunately, only a small percentage of people living on the streets are affected by these programmes and their benefits.
OUTSIDER will be focusing on those individuals who are literally outsiders.
We will be using the data collected thus far during our Everybody Counts 2023 campaign, and get as many of these individuals as possible sorted out with their IDs.
Our count in the CBD and the assessments done show us that of the over 4 000 individuals assessed, close on 3 000 do not have IDs.
Of those, 2 154 are South African citizens who are rendered incognito by virtue of not having an ID.
We have requested that the Department of Home Affairs assist us by subsidising half the total ID cost of R140 and provide a staffed-mobile unit (normally used for election registration).
This unit is to be stationed for the week outside of The Service Dining Room to facilitate this process.
The long-term plan is to engage with Home Affairs to eventually roll out a waiver on ID costs for those experiencing homelessness.
Taking into account the potential loss or theft of their new IDs while still living on the streets, we will introduce a safekeeping system whereby IDs will be safely stored but can at all times be accessed at a venue in the CBD.
If you are willing to join us in facilitating this process for those living on the streets, both during and post Homeless Action Week, please consider making a contribution to our “Putting ID back into DIgnity campaign” by donating R70 for each ID you would like to contribute towards.
Contributions can be made to:
ACCOUNT: CM HOMELESS SOLUTIONS
ACCOUNT NO: 5300 1069 559
Please use the following reference: HAW/ID
We will be running a barometer on how far we get on a weekly basis up and until World Homeless Day as well as covering the registrations live for you on OUTSIDER.
A special video detailing this outreach will be released on WORLD HOMELESS DAY on October 10 and will continue monthly thereafter.
* Carlos Mesquita.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.