With a national unemployment rate growing way above 26.6%, the growing number of homeless in South Africa seem to be posing another threat to the country’s economic growth and development.
Although homelessness in South Africa dates back to the apartheid period, its rate has continued to soar as many people do not have the finances to maintain a permanent place to live.
Recently, the City of Cape Town called again the attention of the public on the high rate people loitering around, causing nuisance and adding to the crime rate in the city.
The city reiterated its call for residents to stop giving money or food directly to homeless individuals.
This, according to them, is because handouts undermine the city’s programmes to help street people, and they also perpetuate chronic homelessness, said mayoral committee member for safety, security and social services, JP Smith.
“We are constantly reminding residents about the harm in giving money directly to street people. While they may think they’re doing a good deed, in reality, it only discourages street people from accepting social services,” Smith said.
“Often the donations obtained on the street will actively prevent reintegration.”
“While members of the public will complain about the structures erected and activities undertaken by street people, they will often also continue to incentivise such behaviour through donations directly to the street person while forgetting about the person who leaves the street to return home or moves to a shelter.”
The City of Cape Town seems to be one of the hotspots for homeless in South Africa. In 2015, a report released by “Street People Research 2014/15, revealed that about 7 383 homeless live people in Cape Town alone.
The report also stated that out of the 7 383 homeless people in the municipality, 4 862 were living on the streets while the rest were in or assumed to be living in shelters, based on their various capacities.
Those living in shelters were more likely to be female, between the ages of the 26 and 35 years old, from outside of Cape Town, and had left home because of losing their house, getting hooked on drugs, or simply having nowhere else to go.
These homeless in South Africa survived on grants, part-time jobs, and assisting at the night shelters. Some also survive on their little earning from jobs like parking attendants, car washing, or “skarrelling” [hustling] among many others.
These set of people are also less likely to have been on the streets for longer than six months.
Speaking further on measures to reduce, or perhaps, put a stop to the high rate of the homeless in South Africa, Smith indicated that the city still encourages people to donate directly to the NGOs working with street persons.
“Social intervention, though time-consuming, is ultimately how we will reduce the number of people living on our streets,” he said.
“But again, I remind residents that it’s futile to complain about the presence of street people in your neighbourhood or public open spaces while enabling the behaviour through handouts,” mayoral committee member for safety, security and social services, JP Smith.
Although the President Jacob Zuma-led government is trying to combat the growth of homeless people through education/employment reforms and government-paid housing, South Africa still has a long way to go in reducing its homeless population.