As we enter what is meant to be a jolly and peaceful season, during which we should focus on giving and being forgiving, I will try not to spoil it for everyone, including myself, by dedicating my festive season columns to the ill informed, pig-headed, arrogant know-it-alls whose job descriptions include the words “addressing homelessness”, at City and provincial level.
We all need a break from having to deal with situations where a provincial department, without any discussion or consultation, for a third time in three years changes its mind on what to do with the funds it has been allocated and accumulated since its 2021 decision to fund its first new (since 1994) and much-needed mega shelter and service centre for those living on the streets of the CBD in Cape Town.
Last year, they changed their minds about the location and focus of the “new shelter”, whose budget had exploded by R13 million and now, a year later, we are informed all the money (now close on R20m) is going to be wasted on extending shelters that those living on the streets refuse to go to and which have proved ineffective in reducing the numbers of people living on the streets.
And no one says a word. No demands for explanations. No shocked “how dare you!” No demand for investigations into such a unilateral, ill-informed mismanagement of a crucial mandate. Nothing!
But, this also being known as the “silly season”, I will park that there for now. I am hoping I will soon be told it was all just a silly joke! (Ha! Ha!, or should I say “Ho! Ho!”?)
I am, however, going to celebrate another state organ that is, without a doubt, considered the worst state department to deal with. Truth be told, I don’t think I have seen a positive story about it all year. Yep, you guessed it, Home Affairs.
I, of all people, am not only going to change that, but I am trying with gratitude, sincerity and admiration.
Before launching a campaign on World Homeless Day to get people living on the streets their IDs, I approached the department’s minister, with a request for assistance �` a 50% reduction of the cost of re-issuing IDs to the many South African citizens who our Everybody Counts assessments have found to be living on our streets and who have no form of identification.
The response was immediately positive.
We eventually had so many on our list, that covering the other 50% became an impossible task. We went back and spent the best part of two months nagging the department heads and director-general to waive the cost, as they do for the youth and elderly. At least for the duration of our count and assessments.
Earlier this week, on opening my Gmail account to check my emails, my eyes saw the words “has been approved”.
With the amount of spam I receive, I didn’t want to get too excited, but on closer inspection, there it was. In black and white.
And this coming week tomorrow and on Thursday and Friday, we will be doing free IDs for those living on the streets, in front of the wonderful Service Dining Room, which has partnered with me on the venture.
From the minister’s office, who delegated it as a “matter of urgency”, to the staff I had the pleasure of engaging with at the provincial office and the co-ordinator assisting us, I have experienced nothing but the best and friendliest of service.
Every department head voted in favour of doing this in their recommendation to the director-general.
I want them all to know how well this reflects on them and the department.
I publicly applaud you all.
I know from experience, that with an ID in hand or safely stored with us while we are living on the streets, should they wish to use the added service we have arranged for them, a large number of the beneficiaries will progress off the streets a lot more swiftly and on their own steam, than would otherwise be the case.
Thank you to all who have been instrumental in helping the unfortunate people living on our streets to rightfully reclaim their identity and dignity.
A special thanks to the Department of Home Affairs, The Service Dining Room, The Cape Argus, the SAPS, the Good Party and everyone at Outsider.
Have a great week, everyone!