OP-ED: Homeless 101: Moving from despair to dignity

OP-ED: Homeless 101: Moving from despair to dignity By Raymond Perrier and Sithembiso Shoba

30.7.2019

OP-ED: Homeless 101: Moving from despair to dignity By Raymond Perrier and Sithembiso Shoba

Recent media coverage of homeless people has again focused on them as victims: in Pretoria at the hands of an unknown murderer; in Cape Town in the face of a harsh law enforcement regime; in Durban neglected by an uncaring municipality. But victimhood is only part of the story.

Let me tell you about the first time I got to Durban. Within days, I was attacked by the city police.

I’m now on the Task Team on Homelessness that was formed by the deputy mayor. So now I’m representing the homeless inside City Hall, as a citizen of South Africa and as a citizen of Durban.

(the shacks) and represent ourselves in Parliament.

The only thing that made sense that night were the stars in the sky above while I slept on the tarmac under a big plastic bag.

I started applying for jobs on the internet in different provinces. In 2018 I got to Durban, excited to start a new job.

About 200 people sleep there, most who also came with a dream of getting a job. I was shocked! “God I don’t want to be stuck here.”

I have never looked back. I put everything into this. All by myself, I came up with a pitch to sell in shopping centres.

You are probably looking at this image right now and thinking: “But she looks happy, I thought this was supposed to be about helpless homeless people”. Well, I am homeless but not hopeless.

(police). I just heard people screaming, sneezing, crying and coughing. I thought I was dreaming.

All I could think about at that moment in time was: “I won’t be able to vote this week. Why would the people who swore to serve and protect us do the exact opposite, especially the day before national elections?”

I decided to move to Durban where I could hustle and grow without feeling pressure from anyone who knew me. I started collecting cans along the street, even in rubbish bins, and taking them to be recycled.

ou start losing your mind: it’s totally different from someone who has a roof over their head. It’s easy to fall into the trap of drugs because in people’s eyes you don’t exist, you’re already crazy.

At 17 I found my mother. I wanted us to have a home but my mother ran away.

I’m the boss lady at the DHC kitchen and I make a mean chicken curry. I won’t let my mother’s sins fall upon me.

I was building a double-storey house for some guy at Estcourt. He was impressed, so he said to come and help him with a few properties and I will make a lot of money! I saw an opportunity but he saw a “

When we got to Durban he took me to a shelter but he only came once to check on me. I had to move out of the shelter. There were two

The police told me to open a case. From that point I knew I was not going to get justice.

My family doesn’t even know what I’ve been through. I don’t want them to see me angry or sad.

I remembered that I don’t really know who I am. Who is this man my mother had called my father? I decide to go on a journey of discovery, which led me to streets of Durban. I heard the story about my father and how I was like him in every way and how he was killed. How he was burnt alive.

One day at the Denis Hurley Centre I asked for work because I was there most of the time for breakfast and lunch. I work as a volunteer in the kitchen. I work in the showers to get them ready for my friends to take a shower in a respectable manner and never worry about being chased around for practising a basic human right.

Crime, violence, prostitution, death, lies, drugs and depression. To most people those words are terrifying, but for me it was normal.

Within these 10 years of being in the streets, I’ve been in and out of drugs. I couldn’t even bury my own mother when she passed away.

If I ever go back to the streets, the devil or God might as well take my life. I don’t want to waste my life any more.

Read more: Daily Maverick

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