Why homelessness is a pandemic: systems, structures and assumptions

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The homelessness pandemic is increasing worldwide and so are the concerns around what is being done to support homeless citizens across the globe. There are also rising concerns around whether these efforts to affect change are making a difference to the most vulnerable people in our communities or if we need to change our tune. 

We’ve learnt a lot from the Covid-19 pandemic but if one thing is clear it’s that we cannot solve a human problem without humility or a sense of care for one another. Together with our partner, MES, we are hosting a webinar this World Homeless Day (10 October) to bring awareness to the problem of homelessness and unpack how we might positively affect the lives of those around us. To us, addressing homelessness starts right here in Cape Town. 

But let’s take a step back. What is homelessness and how does World Homeless Day bring awareness to the problem?

 

What is World Homeless Day?

World Homeless Day is a day observed internationally that aims to draw attention to people who experience homelessness. It is experienced directly by those who live on the streets and have nowhere to go, or indirectly by people who encounter the homeless. World Homeless Day aims to provide opportunities for local communities to come together and get involved in responding to homelessness. 

 

What do we need to unlearn about homelessness?

In South Africa, we are not immune to the homeless pandemic, and we all need to address it every day in a way that affords homeless people the dignity that every human being deserves. We all have an opinion about the homeless and many of us are conflicted about how to feel and act. To start unpacking why people are homeless we must first acknowledge our assumptions and understanding of it. Is our awareness of homelessness a result of our own experiences, or have we adopted an opinion from someone close to us? Usually, our perception is shaped by media or those closest to us like our friends and family. 

To adequately address something as complex as homelessness, we first need to unlearn what we think we know about the problem. 

 

Why are people homeless?

The complexity of homelessness is etched deep into the structures, systems and assumptions on which society is built.

There are three distinct reasons people become homeless:

  1. Structural factors, which involves economic and social factors that inhibit a person’s ability to thrive in society and meet their basic needs. 
  2. System failures, which occurs when systems of support corrode or collapse, leaving vulnerable people in society without a place to find refuge.
  3. Individual circumstances, which affect someone at a personal level and often link to past traumas, family conflicts and unstable support systems. 

 

We will unpack the reasons for being homeless in more detail in our webinar on World Homeless Day. 

 

How does VRCID address this problem?

We support our homeless population in the Cape Town areas of Bellville and Parow by providing them with professional services through a holistic approach of intake, intervention and exit. 

At VRCID, social development and upliftment are a priority, which is why our Social Development Manager and field workers work with our partners to liaise with the homeless daily. 

Together with our partners, we structure programmes that successfully help each client one step at a time, and provide our partners with funding opportunities to help them provide much-needed services that assist the homeless. 

Our goal is to empower the disempowered and create spaces where human potential is developed and dignity is restored. 

If you’d like to play your part in addressing the problem of homelessness in a sustainable way, we invite you to consider supporting our partners – MES, The Haven, Tygerberg Street Peoples Association, El-Theos Drop-in Centre for Street Children to name a few – as well as our Give Responsibly campaign which encourages residents to refer homeless individuals to non-profit organisations, such as MES, rather than handing out money and goods to those living on the streets.

 

Join Our Webinar and Make a Difference

Another way to take active steps in addressing homelessness in our community is by watching the webinar we will share on World Homeless Day on the 10th of October. Our social development team at VRCID will be in conversation with our partner, MES, and unpack why people become homeless; what pathways out of homelessness exist and how you can assist by Giving Responsibly. 

Sign up to our newsletter for a link to the pre-recorded webinar, or keep an eye on our Facebook page for updates if you’re interested in learning more.