A recent study by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), stated that cities around the world face challenges related to homelessness. According to the study, in South Africa, these challenges are ever-growing mainly due to unemployment and poverty.
The study further states that the majority of people who are found living on the streets are black people. White, Coloured and Indian homeless are more likely to be found in shelters.
The overwhelming majority of street and shelter living people are male. This is true across all subgroups. It is also mentioned in the study that 29% of children living on the streets come to the streets due to family disagreements, with 12 % due to substance abuse and a further 12% because of abuse at home.
In an attempt to deal with the problem of homeless people in the street, Msunduzi Municipality Mayor Themba Njilo, recently hosted a meeting to, among other things, discuss and come out with solutions on the issue of homelessness in and around the city.
This was not the first time the Mayor engaged homeless people on the issue of homelessness. Last year, the Mayor took to the streets discussing with the destitute some of the problems that they are facing and also raised the concerns of residents on petty crime which was alleged to have been perpetrated by the homeless.
The meeting which was attended by various stakeholders including representatives from the Department of Social Development, Transport and Community Safety and Liaison, was aimed at addressing challenges faced by people who are living on the streets and also to find out what role can they play towards combating crime around the city.
The Mayor said while these people are often alienated from the city’s public discussions, he feels that they each have a role to play towards keeping the city clean and combating crime. He said that based on statistics, there are about 400 people from different areas, even those from outside Pietermaritzburg who are living on the city’s streets.
Addressing the meeting the Mayor said: “There are many people who live on the streets who have different skills and expertise. I believe that if we can all give them support together as different government stakeholders, most of them can change their lives and more job opportunities can be created. Most of them become involved in criminal activities because they need money so that they can smoke. If we can help unearth their potential, such incidents can be eliminated. Instead they are the ones who can help keep the city clean. We also want to mentor them on various projects, including recycling projects, as they are always pushing trolleys with recycled material but lack information with regards to targeting the right customers for their recycled material.”
The Mayor said that while he is aware that they cannot all be assisted at once, they will be divided into different groups so that each one of them gets an opportunity. He further said that while the programme will be open to all of them, those wishing to go back home have a right to do so.