Over 7,000 people live on the streets of Cape Town

| Bernard Chiguvare and Mary-Anne Gontsana
A homeless man folds his blanket in District 6, Cape Town. Photo by Masixole Feni.

More than 7,000 people are homeless in Cape Town and a large percentage of them are male. This is according to the City of Cape Town’s Social Development and Early Childhood Development Directorate’s survey.

According to the survey, the largest single place where homeless people live is Heerengracht Bridge. 34 people live there.

According to the City, out of the total number of 7,383 homeless people that they counted, 4,862 live and sleep on the streets while 2,521 sleep in shelters. 79% of street people are male. Nearly three-quarters of homeless people are aged 26 to 45.

At a press briefing held in the City’s Civic Centre on Thursday, Councillor Suzette Little, Mayoral committee Member for Social Development and Early Childhood Development, said the City had come up with interventions to address the issue that included the City’s Extended Works Programme.

โ€œThe City has finalised the Street People Policy in 2013, the establishment of our Reintegration Unit at the end of 2014, and the partnerships we continue to build with non-governmental organisations working in this sector,โ€ said Little.

Some of the reasons cited in the survey by people as to why they lived on the streets included freedom, betrayal by loved ones, financial loss, spousal problems and substance use. Women were more likely to be found sleeping in shelters at night and men more likely to be found sleeping on the streets.

Little said that the total figure for the homeless excluded those living on the mountains because of the dangers the City anticipated in running the survey there. โ€œWe started our survey by 4:30am every day, so it was dangerous for our teams to get into such areas during that time of the morning.โ€

Councillor Suzette Little, Mayoral Committee Member for Development and Early Childhood Development, City of Cape Town. Photo by Bernard Chiguvare.

One of the questions raised in the press briefing was where homeless people came from. Little replied, โ€œMost of them are from Cape Town with a few from outside. Recently, we managed to successfully reintegrate a man from the Eastern Cape with his family.โ€

Because of the growing number of homeless people, the City has increased its budget from R7,8 million for 2013/14 to R9,7 million in 2015/16 financial year, a press release from the City states.

Hassan Khan from the Haven Night Shelter in Cape Town said it currently had 1,031 beds. โ€œIf at one moment we receive more people than we can accommodate, we refer them to the nearest police station or ask them to visit the nearest hospital so that they have a night in hospital waiting rooms.โ€

Jantjie Booysen, owner of Ubuntu Circle of Courage, a homeless centre in Delft, said they had 16 beds and wished they could get more.

A representative from the Street People’s Forum โ€” an organisation of homeless people โ€” who identified himself as Greg, said he was not happy with the way the City had released the results of the research though he approved of the findings. โ€œWe agreed with the City that before it releases the findings our organisation would also like to look at the whole document. To my surprise, I only learnt of the release from Cape Talk Radio yesterday,โ€ he said.

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