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‘Homelessness is not always a choice’

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According to a survey recently concluded by the City of Cape Town’s social development and early childhood development directorate, over 7000 people live on the streets of Cape Town. Of these 7000 homeless people that was counted, over 4000 live and sleep on the streets and over 2000 sleep in shelters. This report was presented by the City’s mayoral committee member for social development and early childhood development, Suzette Little last Thursday.

The findings of a study by the Street People Research 2014/15, provided approximate figures for people living on the streets, in shelters, their reasons for being there and factors that would assist them in reintegrating into society. Commenting on the report, Hassan Khan, the CEO of Haven Night shelter says that society needs to acknowledge that there is a difference between homelessness and ‘houselessness’.

Houselessness comprises of sometimes a family or individuals that need some form of housing maybe because they were thrown out of their house because of missed payments. Thus, people who are houseless are in need of housing support.  A homeless person is someone who is living on the street because he feels that he has no other choice, but to be living on the street.

“When you look at someone who has no choice, you need to look at the circumstances that lead them to believe that they have no choice,” Khan explains.

Khan added that the absence of choice could be related to mental illness where people try to hide away from their families and they turn to the streets and effectively stop taking care of themselves.

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.

“Every day trauma could lead people to be homeless such as a death in the family,” Khan went further.

He explained that people want to be left alone and the trauma could direct them into abusing substances such as drugs and alcohol. Houselessness is a problem that can be solved by government by providing housing to those who need it. Homelessness will require social workers to assist the person in facing the problems that drove him to the streets.

“The real charity will be to help is to help the person with his condition and help him get home or send him to Haven shelters. We (Haven) exist to help him get back home,” Khan concluded. VOC (Umarah Hartley)


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