In February, the UN Commission for Social Development agreed the text of the historical first United Nations resolution on homelessness.
The development of a new Street People Policy which allows the homeless to be part of the process is very heartening, says Pat Eddy, Social Development Manager at the Cape Town Central City Improvement District (CCID).
Eddy who has been working in this field for decades, says she’s always been on a mission to help the homeless become contributing members of society and is especially excited about the prospects of one pilot project, Streetscapes, a Housing First initiative in Chester Road Walmer Estate.
Her remarks coincide with World Homeless Day, commemorated annually on 10 October.
She says the CCID has been collaborating with Khulisa since 2015 when the Streetscapes project – which addresses the multidimensional needs of homeless individuals through an integrated work-based rehabilitation and reintegration programme – was introduced.
The programme offers supported employment opportunities, housing and psychosocial support and is aimed mainly at chronic homeless individuals – those that have lived on the streets for many years.
“One woman who has lived on the streets of the CBD for more than 25 years and is an alcoholic with hugely problematic social behaviour started working in the East City and is now living in the Streetscapes house, which is amazing. I would never have believed that she would ever move off the street, so there is hope for everyone.”
The programme also teaches correctional behaviour, Eddy says, with consequences for those engaging in undesirable behavior.
“The individual will need to withdraw themselves from the house for, at minimum, a three-week period. They will be allowed to stay on the rehabilitation work-based programme but unless they can show a commitment to improving their behaviour and the other housemates are prepared to accept them back, they will not be allowed to return.”
“Pilots like these are wonderful and, as a homeless sector and as representatives of the City, we can learn a lot about what works and what doesn’t. These types of innovative and sustainable solutions are what will drive the City’s homeless agenda if implemented correctly.”
Eddy is also encouraged by Cape Town City Council Mayco member Zahid Badroodien’s support for the Inkatalo Conversations – a facilitation process which allows citizens, particularly those who live on the streets, to provide input for consideration in a new City Street People Policy, as well as the recommendations towards a wider strategy to address homelessness in Cape Town.
The City announced in early August that it will review its street people policy established in 2013.
The document, which hasn’t been revised since, is linked to the City’s bylaws, one of which came under fire in 2019 for allowing homeless people to be fined.
“We will be undertaking a series of dialogues with the street people sector in the coming months to help inform the strategy,” said Badroodien.
Acutely aware of the realities that come with working with the homeless, Eddy says: “We can’t make this problem disappear; all we can do is assess the different situations and refer the individuals to the most appropriate resources available.
“Often, individuals do want help but for whatever reason, they are either unable to seek it out for themselves or don’t know how. My team and I have to build relationships of trust with these individuals and assess their circumstances before being able to assist.”
Eddy, who has been working with Cape Town’s homeless for the past fifteen years, feels the Intakalo Conversations and the development of a new Street People Policy is a step in the right direction.
“It really is a sincere attempt to genuinely engage with partners and, as the CCID, we are hopeful it will make a meaningful impact and change the current homeless situation.”
By forging meaningful partnerships with the likes of Youth Solutions Africa, The Hope Exchange, Khulisa Social Solutions and others, through effective rehabilitation and work-based programmes, Eddy says her team have managed to reconnect homeless individuals with their children, restore their dignity and change lives.
“I always believe there is the ability for a person to change and we can’t give up hope in that person,” she adds. “I have a belief that, given sufficient support, we’re all able to make improvements in our lives and become contributing members of society.”
Eddy has also called on the public to support initiatives to improve the lives of the City’s homeless people.
“There is no one-size-fits-all solution but, as a collective, we can find more meaningful, long-term solutions to continue making contributions to the lives of people living on the street,” she added.
Eddy said when she first stepped into the role 12 years ago, she didn’t realise the magnitude of the challenge, but “to see some of the chronic homeless – many who have lived on the streets of the CBD for more than 15 years – begin to find some meaning in their life and reach a stage where they are able to move from the streets, is enormously encouraging.”
Also on thesouthafrican.com: Court orders City of Cape Town to stop harassing homeless people
Each year, World Homeless Day is celebrated on 10 October to draw attention to those sleeping rough on the streets.
This year marks the event’s tenth anniversary. In a tongue-in-cheek campaign, Cape Town-based homelessness NGO, U-Turn has chosen to campaign to ‘cancel’ World Homeless Day and rather put the spotlight on the problems with short-term welfare solutions.
“Society has a long tradition of responding to homelessness with short term welfare relief solutions – cups of soups, blankets and clothing as needed. While the intentions are no doubt good, this aggravates the problem. People remain on the streets and numbers grow. Prior to Covid-19 we saw numbers visibly increasing on our streets. Post-lockdown the situation is even more desperate,” said Rowen Ravera-Bauer, U-Turn’s strategic partnership development manager.
The organisation has seen a nearly 30% increase in the number of people accessing its service centre in Claremont, reports the Daily Maverick.
“We see new faces at traffic lights. The challenge we face is greater than ever. There is an urgent need to shift gears from emergency relief to rehabilitation/development. We need to be wise in how we spend resources, looking more towards long-term solutions rather than a cup-of-soup like approach,” said Ravera-Bauer.