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In 21st century Cape Town, everybody should have a place to live

Cape Town will be hosting its very first Homeless Action week, running between October 4-10. Picture: Leon Lestrade/African News Agency (ANA).

Cape Town will be hosting its very first Homeless Action week, running between October 4-10. Picture: Leon Lestrade/African News Agency (ANA).

Published Sep 15, 2021


People become homeless for various reasons. Pressure from high rentals and low pay, or a sudden life event, such as losing a job or family breakdown, can quickly force people into homelessness.

But it doesn’t have to be like this. We can end homelessness for good. This doesn’t mean that no one will ever lose their home again, but that everyone facing homelessness gets the help they need quickly.

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We will soon publish a plan showing the solutions that can end homelessness in Cape Town, including how long it will take and what it will cost.

Homeless Action Week – Cape Town was born out of discussions with people in different sectors who wanted to know more about homelessness itself, and why there has been such a huge rise in the numbers affected and how we can turn the tide on this sudden rise.

There are so many challenges to be met that the least we can do is take a week this year and talk and have consultations and have lectures and have schools present plays and artists painting and writers writing and reporters reporting on the state of homelessness today and how we can all contribute to turning this tide around.

And as with all else, knowledge is power. All we need is to get the information out there and for people to talk honestly about it, experience it and understand it and then do something about it.

The emphasis is on giving hands-on aid that is sensitive to local needs while being aware of the global problem of homelessness and feeling solidarity with EVERYONE affected.

Unfortunately, data shows that homelessness has been steadily rising over the past decade or so.

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We all have to learn about ways to observe this day that might make a difference in the life of a homeless person:

Getting the community together to help educate them on the problem is crucial.

We are countering years and decades of misinformation having been fed to the public, and so have our work cut out for us, and adding in an opportunity to help boost the fund-raising efforts makes this an even better opportunity.

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Hold a car wash, a raffle, a formal dinner or Sunday brunch.

Host a birthday fund-raiser, run in a 5km race, or hold a bake sale! All sorts of ideas can be used to get people involved with helping those who could use some assistance with housing.

The purpose of the Homeless Action Week is to draw attention to homeless people’s needs locally and provide opportunities for the community to get involved in responding to homelessness.

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This year, we are in crisis, but within the crisis, a number of wonderful things have happened.

We are close to launching a brand-new organisation, the (Homeless Action Coalition) that will become the body representing and advocating for homeless people and which will for the first time include homeless and re-homed people.

We have also now got a National Homeless Network and an organisation (The Re-homing Collective) that aims to continue showing success as it re-homes the homeless with dignity.

We have, as homeless people, stood up, fought and won a number of cases against a City that criminalises homeless people for being homeless.

10 000 people have signed a petition against this! This year, we have a moral obligation to inform and expose to civil society, business the press and clergy the other side of homelessness.

It is important to meet this cause and the people affected without preconceptions. Anyone can become homeless, people from a rich background, as well as people, brought up without money.

Educated people as well as people without education. Healthy people as well as people with long-term illnesses.

Whoever it is, they need help and support and first and foremost to be seen, hence Cape Town’s first ever Homelessness Action Week from October 4 to 10.

* Carlos Mesquita and a handful of others formed HAC (the Homeless Action Committee) that lobbies for the rights of the homeless. He also manages Our House in Oranjezicht, which is powered by the Community Chest. He can be reached at [email protected]

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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