It seems we have limited the services to only those who have broken the law - killers, rapists, fraudsters, illegal drug lords and so on. But there's another group in our unbalanced society that is in desperate need of help.
Here's what happened: I knocked off late and got to my flat at around 9pm then decided to go downstairs to get bread. I heard three voices shouting: “Good evening, Mr Chabalala. You are Kabelo right? Why did you not tell us you are an analyst at a newspaper?”
They were three homeless-guys- turned-voluntary-parking assistants in the Pretoria CBD. They spotted my column while paging through The Star.
I decided to have a meal with them to find out more about where they come from and how they ended up on the streets. It was not my first one-on-one with a homeless guy. I have done it for two years with different men from various backgrounds. I found a common denominator - they are all smart but made terrible decisions in their lives. These resulted in their becoming homeless, hopeless, restless and finding themselves on the outskirts of society with nobody to help pick up the pieces and rebuild their lives.
The meals I buy them time and again do not help address their greatest desires. The R3 or R5 coins we give them do not help. They feed their bodies with nyaope and other bad substances.
They too, want to be reintegrated into society.
Our government pumps millions into helping people who kill, rape and steal. In fact, our government makes better people out of many offenders and monsters.
But what about homeless people?
If our government can finance behavioural correction and value restorative justice with the reintegration of offenders, surely we can find ways to reintegrate people on the streets into society?
I ask those I interact with about their dreams. They want to get off the streets, finish school, go to varsity and find jobs. They did not break any laws, yet nobody cares about them.
Their only sin is that they made bad choices, including lying to their parents about not getting into varsity and not knowing how to recover from those lies until they caught up with them.
Some of them were disowned by their families for the thousands of rand invested in the supposed studies - money their families did not have to waste.
Some felt so bad that they didn't try to reach out to their heart-broken families.
Many left their homes to go to the City of Gold in search of a better life they never got to realise.
In Hammanskraal, Tshwane, I know many homeless people who hang around the mall, taxi ranks and big supermarkets. They come from my village. We are a poor community and many parents sacrifice their hard-earned money to send their kids to varsity, but the demons of a complex world can derail anyone.
We have resources to educate those who broke the law. Perhaps, the government should look into the plight of the homeless and help them reintegrate.
If the somewhat useless campaigns like the CEO SleepOuts focused and researched the needs of the people they mock, they would know that these people have a longing to be part of society in a progressive way. A home, shelter, getting their IDs, registering at school and working, are what they long for more than food and blankets.
Who knows? The manufacturers, innovators, social entrepreneurs and many other game-changers of our country could be somewhere on the streets.
Being homeless hasn't killed their hopes, dreams and desires. They just need a helping hand.
* Kabelo Chabalala is the founder of the Young Men Movement. E-mail: [email protected], Twitter: @KabeloJay, Facebook: Kabelo Chabalala
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.