U-Turn’s ‘A Night on the Street’ campaign raises over half a million rand to fight homelessness

Winter is on our doorstep and homelessness is on the rise in South Africa. Picture: Armand Hough/Independent Newspapers

Winter is on our doorstep and homelessness is on the rise in South Africa. Picture: Armand Hough/Independent Newspapers

Published May 22, 2024


By Wendy Dondolo

In a striking campaign designed to enhance public empathy and understanding for homelessness, U-turn, along with partners SMG BMW Constantia and various philanthropic organisations, hosted a successful event “Night on the Streets 2024”.

The event took place both physically and virtually, allowing participants to experience a night of sleeping outside, exposed and vulnerable, to foster a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by the homeless.

The campaign, driven by a mission to foster empathy and understanding, invited people from various walks of life to experience one night of sleeping on cold, hard floors.

“We wanted people to understand what it means to sleep out for one night on the cold floor, exposed and vulnerable,” Valerie Govender, Chief Communications Officer at U-turn, said capturing the essence of the campaign in her opening speech.

“Our heart was for people to grasp what that means when they interact with those living on the streets.”

The event also featured an artistic representation, placing a dried-out tree at the centre of the venue — a powerful metaphor for potential and transformation.

“What may appear barren and broken is still beautiful. Pain can be purposed,” Govender explained, emphasising the healing potential inherent in every individual and situation.

Matthew James, the dealer principal of SMG BMW Constantia, shared his journey from conceptualising the event to witnessing its profound impact on the community.

His voice filled with emotion as he recounted, “A month ago, we sat in an office pondering how to make a difference. This event has exceeded all our expectations, thanks to your compassion and solidarity.

“Your participation in the Night on the Street campaign is a powerful testament to your compassion and dedication to making a difference. This experience has not only raised awareness but also brought us closer as a community,” James said.

The event successfully raised significant funds.

“We’ve hit R560,000 tonight, the funds will be used to develop the program. Your generosity enables U-turn to continue providing essential services and support to those who need it most,” James revealed.

The initiative was lauded by participants and sponsors alike.

Janine Myburgh, Chairperson of the Legal Practice Council of South Africa, highlighted the role of the legal community in addressing homelessness: “Sleeping outside tonight is just a glimpse into what 14,000 people in Cape Town deal with every night. We are opening our doors to offer legal assistance to those in need.”

“A Night on the Streets 2024” has not just been an event, but a transformative experience, reminding all participants of the daily realities faced by many and redefining public perceptions and narratives around homelessness.