Focus on homeless

Evangelist Pastor Dean Ramjoomia, founder and director of Nehemiah Call Initiative (NCI)

I compiled the following report and thought it prudent to respond to the Plainsman’s reports on people living on streets in recent weeks.

It is a baseline assessment or profile of people living on the streets from February until now.

I looked at group dynamics, who lives on the streets, how many people; are they single, married, divorced, couples or parents; do they have children and with whom do they share the streets, their living space, in Town Centre.

This information was gathered by regular weekly and often daily interaction through our distribution of food to the homeless.

More than 120 people live on the streets in Town Centre.

It is imperative to note that it is difficult in the metros of South Africa to have a specific number of people on the streets at a specific time.

Majority of the street people were aged between 22 and 35; and there were about 10 aged between 40 and 60.

The ratio of women to men in Mitchell’s Plain is very high in relation to other areas estimates of one woman to 10 men or even 12 men.

At a given time we would have about 15 women, aged between 16 and late 20s, stand in the queue for food.

Mothers with minor children or babies largely skarrel.

I am only aware of three families living in this area.

About 12 people need mental health care, of whom three were women; and the rest men aged between 20 and 30.

During my time of serving people on the streets since February only three wheelchair bound people came for food.

A partially blind woman, in her 20s, accompanied by a man, comes from Beacon Valley.

Health and hygiene on the streets is poor to very bad.

The general demeanour is respectful and cooperative. There are quite a few bullies.

No one was visibly drunk but they were addicted to substances.

There was an element of gangsterism. They were actively involved in group crime and scavenging. They would do this as a source of income, to skarrel, beg, act as car guards, “broke”, push trolleys and do odd jobs.

They had access to public toilets and water at the bus terminus, informal trading areas and the petrol stations during the day.

At night there were no ablution facilities.

Quite a few of them would recycle goods by taking it to scrap yards.

Street people by their nature are nomads and are constantly on the move, looking for resources and territory.

They seldom stay long in some places.

They often move into central business districts, with high trading areas and footfall for income or piece-work.

There is often conflict amongst people living on the streets, so their relationships and their interaction varies from hostile to moderate.

Their relationship with businesspeople can be quite acrimonious because it is not always acceptable to have a homeless person at your shop – which impacts the bottom line – they may be unkempt, dirty and keeping shoppers away.

They also do come into conflict with authority figures, security services and businesses; SAPS and law enforcement officers as they may feel displaced, mistreated, dis-empowered, exploited and that their human rights were violated.

There are many services available to street people living in Town Centre, including Mitchell’s Plain community health centre, the police station, the magistrate court, the offices of social development and the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA).

It is also noteworthy that several non-profit organisational services are located in this area and accessible to people living on the streets.

Most of them are aware and have made use of these services, some more than others.

I feel that they are willing to move off the streets and return home but need intense personal assessment and development plans to help them beat their drug addiction, help with personal relationships and access the necessary and specific help.