Homelessness: factors and implications to landlessness.

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We can no longer turn a blind eye to this epidemic. The three largest metropolitans in the country are seeing an overwhelming rise in homelessness with Johannesburg CBD accounting for about 8000-20000, while Cape Town is estimated at about 4862. Lastly, Tshwane with 2000+ homeless people. These figures are not a true reflection of the entire people who are homeless in the cities and they could be 10 times than this the reported figures. However, the numbers are too alarming to ignore.


Psychological and economical factors leading to homelessness.


There are many factors leading to homelessness such as landlessness, unemployment, psychological illness, substance abuse, domestic violence and orphanism. These are just tip of the iceberg to the contribution of homelessness. This article will attempt to focus on few aforementioned factors.


The fluctuation of the Rand controls everyday living, the unsteady price of petrol determines the pricing of goods and services, but wages and salaries remain the same. As a result this affects the working class and people living below the poverty line, leaving them struggling to make ends meet like paying for rent, food and transportation.


Unemployment is at an all time record high since post-apartheid with 29% and no sight sooner of decreasing. This has led to the recent attacks of retrenchments and displacement of the poor. Recent stats shows that an average working person is literally two wages shy from falling below the poverty line.


Unemployment has been linked with a number of psychological disorders, particularly anxiety, depression and substance abuse; dangerous behaviors including suicide and violence towards family members.


Psychological illness is also a major factor to homelessness. Anxiety, depression and stress are contributors to psychological illness, which is caused by the growing pressure of the world we live in. Be it academia, work or the constant demand upon us by society. As a result, for copying mechanism people resort to drugs, alcohol etc to escape bearing the brunt of a failing economy.


Domestic violence for both male and female is also an issue leading to homelessness. As people run away from home to free themselves from the abuse they are experiencing in their homes. Therefore, they end up roaming the streets of the city looking for shelters to accommodate them.


Shelters are also closing down because of inadequate funding from the government. Therefore, most shelters are barely surviving through means donations from the public-which does not necessarily sustain the everyday running of the shelter.


Orphanism is another factor that leads to homelessness. Families either reject or ill-treat orphans most likely pushing them to the streets to fend for themselves. Although some families do take good care of orphans.


Hidden homelessness is also an overlooked issue. Whereby people come to the city to look for work or study end up squatting with friends or relatives. A study conducted by The big issue which focused on homelessness in the UK, dubbed hidden homelessness as “Forgotten Sofa Sufferers“. Defining them as “people who people hop from one friend or relative to another or move from shelter to shelter, just to have a roof over their heads, others resort to cohibiting”. These has become a common practice in South Africa lately as people are struggling with affording rent nearer to places of work and study.


Majority of people cannot afford to have a roof over their heads even when earning a minimum wage. The government views hidden homelessness primarily as a social dependency issue and there is no national census on it. Affordable and safe accommodation should be a priority in order to ensure that everyone has a roof over their heads.


The effectiveness of shelters should be challenged. Where it doesn’t serve it’s purpose. With Cape Town having 29 shelters alone whilst Johannesburg and Tshwane have 20-23 shelters respectively. One could easily ask (why are there still homeless people on the streets?). Shelters should be able to provide temporary accommodation with long-term feasible solutions. Has to also collaborate with local clinics, rehabilitation centres, churches etc to work towards eradicating this epidemic by ensuring that those who are stranded and cannot afford to pay for a monthly accommodation rent are accommodate at this facilitates. This initiative should also focus on finding a permanent accommodation and attempt to tackle the root cause of homelessness.


Apartheid spatial land setting.


The land issue not only affects the displaced people in the farming land, rural areas or the homeless as perceived by the dominant narrative but also the broader community that also live in informal settlements whereby residents have to continuously fight for proper land to build their houses.


The list for housing distribution keeps on increasing by day. The government should focus on building more houses through a state nationalised company and rid of itself the tender process of third party involvement. This will also help with cutting costs and probably eradicate corruption of allocating houses to friends and families of those who have but will allocate according to the peoples needs.


The post-apartheid government has maintained the spatial apartheid settings of housing and land allocation where the poor are marginalised in spaces that are far from industrialised areas or places of work.


The expropriation of land without compensation, should also pay attention to the distribution of urban land and not only agricultural land as urban areas have more density than rural areas. Abandoned state-owned buildings, houses and land should be allocated to the poor and also use some of the buildings to shelter people who find themselves stranded at night.

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