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The City of Cape Town is Fining Homeless People and I’m Angry  -  But What Am I Actually Doing About It?

I’m not sure if you’ve been keeping up with the news but if you live in Cape Town you will know the amount of homeless people that live on our doorstep and it has recently come to light that the City of Cape Town is fining homeless people after receiving complaints about them. I thought this was the only thing I could write about this week. 

Before I say my piece, I want to say this, fining homeless people is evil. There are no two ways to look at that, it is wrong. There has been a public cry on social media critizing the City of Cape Town and it’s government for this evil. For some reason though being apart of that outcry didn’t feel right to me. Why? Well, because who am I to judge the City of Cape Town? 

Let me explain. I don’t have a car so when I am going around Cape Town, it is either on the MyCiti, in an Uber, on my skateboard or on my feet. When you walk around Cape Town you are bombarded by cries for help, even if it just be for a R5. You can walk up Long Street with someone asking you for money the entire journey. It genuinely happens and Long Street is aptly named. I have sat at a MyCiti bus stop and had a man ask me for money, then proceed to pee behind the bus stop and continuing to ask me for money while looking me in the eyes. He then finished urinating walked up to me and continued to ask for money until people walked past and he moved onto asking them for money. I can recount countless stories of sexist comments that woman I know hear from homeless people or how walking in Cape Town you can easily get asked for money 5 different times and every time the person asking is being incredibly forceful. Now in those situations, how do I feel? In truth, I feel harassed and it makes me really angry. I understand the individuals are homeless but in those moments I feel like I am being treated as subhuman. So I react in kind. I can’t say that others act like me, but I’m pretty sure we all do. So then how can I take the moral high ground against the City of Cape Town, when I don’t actually have a foot to stand on? 

I know that giving a homeless person R5 will only make their situation worse because it actually keeps them on the street rather than helps them get off of it. A friend of mine (an EFF supporter — I am mentioning this because he believes in equal redistribution of wealth) once said a R5 cannot liberate a man. I agree with him on redistribution and liberation, but here is where the problem comes in. Great, I am not giving someone R5, but what else I am actually doing? Can I be honest with you. Nothing really. 

If I have time I do try to at least talk to someone who is begging from me just to let them know that I see them as a human being. But it’s 2019, we never have time do we? So I almost never do that. Then when you’re walking with a friend, you want to show them that you’re a caring person but also you want to spend time with your friend. So how do we actually handle it? We awkwardly look down and walk past. Let’s be honest, and just admit it. We don’t know how to handle the homeless and it’s easy to blame the City for treating them badly. Which they are doing, it is an evil. However, again, what are we actually doing? 

Personally I can’t say I’m doing much but something that was encouraging the other day. A man came up to me and a friend claiming to be from Sudan and saying that he wanted to go to Saldanha Bay because he knows there are other Sudanese people there. Having knowledge of the attrocities that are happening in Sudan at the moment my heart really did go out to him. I didn’t have the money to help or to truly liberate him, but I am fortunate enough to go to a Church that has very intentional social justice ministries. So I told him to find the community centre of our Church in Observatory and that they would be able to help him. Now the onus is on him to go and do that, but did I do enough? I don’t know. It doesn’t feel like enough. The situation feels impossible because how do we improve the situation? We need to find ways to liberate the minds of people who are living on the street. I just don’t think an angry tweet at the City of Cape Town is going to do that. 

Maybe if we worked with the City of Cape Town. But to be honest, I don’t have the energy or passion to do that. So here I am stuck to be angry and guilty at the same time but refusing to point my finger at another party when I am just as guilty as them. Writing this I realised I could something, albeit small, but something. So I did and a bit of research and got this list.

I collected a few options of shelters, official charities and Churches that help the homeless in Cape Town:

  • Jubilee Social Ministries — Jubilee is the Church I go to and has a variety of ministries that give back to the underprivileged throughout Cape Town. 
  • Hope City Presbyterian — I have been told this Church also has intentional relationships with night shelters that are working tirelessly to help alleviate homelessness. Getting in contact with them may be a great help if you are looking to make an effective difference. 
  • The Haven Night Shelter — This organization provides accomodation for homeless individuals, while reintegrating them with family or loved ones. They do have a nightly fee of R12 for someone who is homeless to help them take responsibility (I have my doubts about this) but they do say that the individual can work at the Shelter to pay for their accommodation or we can Buy a bed, where it is R60 to pay for 5 bed nights for an individual. 
  • U-Turn — They equip people with skills and work opportunities to overcome homelessness. Apparently 80% of people who go through the 6 month program at U-Turn remain in jobs and sober. They are based in Kenilworth and you can donate or volunteer to help out there. They are a Christian organization too. 
  • New Hope SA — They run a road to independence program and are based in Mowbray. They also have an incredibly helpful article to help one figure out what to actually do and a list of shelters across Cape Town. You can also volunteer or donate to them. 
  • Cape Town Magazine — They do not themselves have a specific charity for the homeless but they have a great article that informs the reader of places to really help break the cycle of homelessness. A quote from the article “Handing out money indiscriminately continues the vicious cycle of poverty and dependance. Through a donation to a charity organisation, you know that your money will actually make a difference in someone’s life.”

When I started writing this article it felt hopeless but with a few minutes of research, I have discovered there is something we can actually do for the homeless in Cape Town. The City of Cape Town should stop fining the homeless and rather placing them in environments that can help them be rehabilitated into a position where they can hold down a job. The City of Cape Town is handling the situation poorly and needs to be called out, their statement about the issue was incredibly out of touch. However, the poor treatment of homeless people is not a Cape Town problem. It is a South African problem, so it is a problem we cannot politicize by claiming that one party is at fault. Healthy politics and economy would help alleviate the problem but those take time. 

Rather than looking at what other people are doing wrong let’s just look at what we can do. And what we can do is find places to give to that are making a real difference to the lives of the homeless rather than just tweeting angrily. 

4 thoughts on “The City of Cape Town is Fining Homeless People and I’m Angry  -  But What Am I Actually Doing About It?”

  1. Hey Tyrone, great article bud. I dont know much of the detail regarding the fining of homeless people – as I understand it the motive was to encourage/force them to make use of a shelter (?enough available) and not be on the street?

    1. Thank you! Also, thank you for reading it!

      Sadly, if that is the motive The City of Cape Town did not claim that motive in their statement, they said the following in regards to the fines:

      “It is not illegal to be homeless, and street people are entitled to freedom of movement as outlined in the Bill of Rights. However, like everyone else, street people are expected to abide by the laws of the country and the by-laws of the City – particularly the By-law relating to Streets, Public Places and Prevention of Noise Nuisances.

      In the first three months of this year, the Law Enforcement Displaced Persons Unit received 3 051 complaints from the public about anti-social behaviour by street people. During the same period, the unit issued 199 fines for contraventions of the aforementioned by-law.

      The Law Enforcement Department is duty-bound to enforce the City’s by-laws as they apply equally to all residents. This includes issuing fines for transgressions. The department is also obliged to respond to complaints and service requests from the public, which include complaints related to behaviour that is prohibited in the by-law relating to Streets, Public Places and Prevention of Noise Nuisances.

      It is important to note that this by-law was promulgated in 2007, so it is not new. When it was drafted, we compared it with legislation in other municipalities and purposefully made our by-laws more humane and more considerate than those in other major metropolitan areas.

      The issuing of fines in relation to this specific by-law is not new either. Furthermore, the fines are set by the Department of Justice, and not the City.”

      Unfortunately, according to their statement the motive is law enforcement and not encouraging them to go into shelters. If it was, I do think they would have put that in their statement. I wish it was their motive.

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