A holistic effort is required to help street people. File photo: Willem Law / African News Agency (ANA)
Being a person concerned about the welfare of the homeless, I was offended by the picture that appeared on the front page of the Cape Times on Tuesday.

I felt you were exploiting the suffering of this person by displaying the picture in such a prominent position, with no written report explaining the problem of homelessness in Cape Town.

The UN Centre for Human Settlements report of 2000 stated that the homeless represent the most obvious and severe manifestation of the unfulfilled human right to adequate housing.

A survey conducted in Cape Town in 2015 estimated there were 7 500 homeless people in our city. The number has certainly grown in the past three years. The night shelters have accommodation for 2.500, which leaves the rest sleeping in shop doorways and under bushes or bridges. 

In other words, the level of homelessness, particularly on the streets of Cape Town, is equivalent to that of a natural disaster every night. Some have described it as a slow-moving tragedy.

The complexity of the problem is not just a matter of a shortage of housing. Living on the streets is dangerous. It causes health problems and affects people’s well-being. Prolonged periods of rough sleeping has a significant impact on someone’s mental and physical health.

Their situation often leads them to abuse drugs and alcohol and resort to petty crime, leaving them with criminal convictions.

The more complex their situation becomes, the more help they will need to move from homelessness and to rebuild their lives.

Does the City of Cape Town have any clear policies about how to deal with this growing problem?

It seems that most of the work being done to assist the homeless is being orchestrated by faith-based organisations, NGOs and concerned citizens running soup kitchens, providing blankets and clothing.

While the initiatives are good in themselves, they offer only temporary relief. Assisting only on a sustainable level will help the homeless to survive on the streets but will not facilitate their exiting homelessness.

The complexity of the problem requires a holistic effort to assist those on the street to deal with the issues. They need training to equip them with marketable skills and support to help find suitable accommodation.

Roger Wood

Diep River