Unemployment the main cause of homelessness in Tshwane, report finds

Survey counted 4,177 homeless people in the city

By Warren Mabona

28 March 2023

Director of the Centre for Faith and Community at the University of Pretoria Stephan de Beer (right) hands over a report on the first homeless count done in the City of Tshwane to Tinyiko Maluleke of the City’s department of community and social services at an event in Hatfield. Photo: Warren Mabona

The first homeless count in the City of Tshwane, which was conducted in October 2022 and launched this week, has revealed that unemployment is the single main cause of homelessness in the city.

People experiencing homelessness were counted at night in seven regions of Tshwane by volunteers, who also gave out food parcels. The total number of people counted was 4,177, and of these 3,408 were questioned.

The count was conducted by the Unit for Street Homelessness at the University of Pretoria (UP) in partnership with the Tshwane Homelessness Forum and the City of Tshwane.

The report was authored by Professor Stephan de Beer, the director of the Centre for Faith and Community at UP. On Monday he presented the report at an event attended by about 100 people at Hatfield campus.

According to De Beer, 41% of those surveyed cited unemployment as the reason they were homeless; 23% attributed it to alcohol and substance use; 15% said it was a result of family trauma or loss of a loved one. Only 33 people indicated that they were homeless as a result of Covid-19.

“The greatest reason by far, in contrast to a city like Cape Town, was unemployment. This is symptomatic of South Africa’s current economic climate, and programmes to address educational and vocational challenges of people who are homeless are critically important,” said De Beer.

According to the report, of the people it surveyed: nearly half were under the age of 35 (only 31 were under 18); 87% were male; less than 8% were from outside South Africa. Only 24% lived in shelters and 16% lived in abandoned buildings.

The report made a number of recommendations, including a permanent, funded shelter as a point of contact in each region of the city: Centurion, the Moot, Mamelodi, Eersterust, Bronkhorstspruit, Hammanskraal and Montana.

The survey also found that only 11% of those surveyed had received a Covid-19 vaccine, and recommended a vaccination programme for shelters.

De Beer said volunteers included people from civil society, churches, municipal officiers, students and researchers from the university, and people with lived experience of homelessness.

One of the volunteers who participated, Bakang Sentle, told the audience that he came to Gauteng in 2021 from Taung in the North West to look for entrepreneurial opportunities, but ended up living on the streets. He said his life improved when he moved to a homeless shelter after spending more than a year on the streets. He is now studying for an honours degree in economics at the University of Pretoria.

Deputy chairperson of the Tshwane Homeless Forum Sam Moimane said he was surprised to find there were homeless people in areas such as Soshanguve and Mabopane.

Tinyiko Maluleke of the Tshwane’s community and social services department said the report would assist the City with allocation of funds for shelters and care for homeless people.