The City commemorated World Homeless Day yesterday by engaging homeless people and role-players on challenges facing those living on the street. Photo: Armand Hough / African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town – As part of marking World Homeless Day yesterday, local rehabilitation and skills development programme U-turn has encouraged the public and the City of Cape Town to shift their perceptions about homelessness.

The organisation’s strategic partnership development manager Rowen Ravera said the word “homeless” translated as “hopeless”, evidenced by a focus on traditional short-term welfare relief, a cup of soup and blanket approach.

“For World Homeless Day, U-turn is highlighting the importance of long-term rehabilitation through a photo campaign of graduates from its programme. While the photos are designed to stand alone, the graduates’ stories are available as needed,” she said.

“As a community, if we collectively agree to give responsibly by putting people in need with support services and rehabilitation programmes, we can change their lives and turn back the tide on homelessness, said Ravera.

Another organisation, Ubuntu Circle of Courage, said the city’s homeless must be part of initiatives to aid them rather than fine them.

The City has come under fire and has been hauled to court over its controversial by-laws which, among others, makes it unlawful to “obstruct pedestrian traffic on sidewalks”.

The City’s metro police’s displaced person unit had issued 199 fines to the homeless for contravening the by-law.

Ubuntu was one of several non-profit organisations invited by the City to participate in World Homeless Day dialogues at the Bellville Civic Centre yesterday. Its owner Jantjie Booysen said that what was needed was a more human approach to the problem of the city’s homeless.

“You cannot fine the poorest of the poor and it may be short-sightedness or other motives by the authorities rather than dealing with the people. If there should be interventions considered, it should include members of the homeless community, the very human approach missing from the City’s policies,” he said.

Booysen said that commemorating World Homeless Day to spread awareness was a noble cause.

However, he said he needed to reach the broader community as homelessness was a societal issue.

During the dialogues, the homeless and NGOs were given a platform to raise issues with the City’s social development and early childhood development department and received free health advice and clothing donated at the City’s libraries.

Community services and health Mayco member Zahid Badroodien said the aim was to develop an improved interface model between the City and organisations that provide services to the homeless.

“The street people’s policy needs to be reviewed. I am looking at any policy regarding our changing social spaces and bringing it up to a standard that’s progressive and if we are going to do that, we must include the people affected directly,” said Badroodien.

Cape Times