City increases budget to aid homeless

Law enforcement officers at the homeless shelter opposite the Sea Point police station.

The City of Cape Town’s Social Development and Early Childhood Development Department says it will spend a little under R27 million on interventions for homeless people this financial year.

This is a R4.5 million increase over the previous financial year.

The funds will be used to run the City’s three safe spaces, as well as the winter readiness programme to help shelters and to continue awareness and education campaigns.

The City said it will support employment possibilities for 934 street people through the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) this fiscal year.

“Homelessness is one of society’s very complex matters, and it elicits very strong opinions. Healthy and informed debates are crucial to the process, as we grapple with finding lasting solutions. Unfortunately we find that the conversation is often limited to the issue of shelter spaces as a silver bullet. In doing so, the mammoth efforts of our reintegration unit to help move people off the street in a sustainable manner go unnoticed,” said the Mayoral committee member for community services and health, Zahid Badroodien.

“Apart from helping willing participants find a temporary shelter, our staff, in conjunction with the City’s many non-governmental partners, work to help secure identity documents for individuals, which in turn help them apply for grants or to find employment. They facilitate referrals to medical care, but also other social services, and more importantly, they go the extra mile to help reunite people on the street with their families. This is not something that happens overnight, because often there are fractured family relations that need to be addressed before a reunion can happen. All of this work happens on a daily basis, but is seldom acknowledged.”

Ndifuna Ukwazi Law Centre welcomed the City’s investment in assisting the homeless but condemned the treatment meted out recently where their belongings were taken (Homeless Evicted, August 26).

“People living on the streets are already vulnerable, but this approach to homelessness that is overly reliant on punitive measures exacerbates their vulnerability to systemic disadvantages,” a statement from Ndifuna Ukwazi read.

“The City’s proposed R27 million allocation pales in comparison to the R500 million added to the law enforcement budget during the Mayors tenure, and the increase of R82 million towards the City’s land protection budget for 2021/2022 (announced by Mayor Dan Plato on 29 September). These figures clearly betray the City’s true intention – to continue with its heavy-handed, unsustainable approach of enforcement and punitive measures.”

According to a report by U-turn, the City spent R744 million on people experiencing homelessness in 2019/2020 – with R345 million (or 45%) going towards enforcement and punitive measures and only R122 million (or 16%) on social development activities.