A Homeless Stakeholder Consultation was held at Durban City Hall on Thursday, 13 September at 2pm. Speaking at the meeting, eThekwini Deputy Mayor, Fawzia Peer welcomed guests.

“I am quite pleased and excited that we are getting together today to engage on this important and complex issue of homelessness in our city, with a conviction that as we leave this room we will have concrete action plans that will take us forward as a collective to address homelessness,” said Peer.

Peer said that homelessness would be better addressed by creating a task force including state and non-state actors, NGO’s, faith based organisations, private sector and academia to think together and address homelessness. “As a city we have learnt great lessons over the years and are exploring a more inclusive approach to address this complex challenge and we are not blind to the fact that we have not done much to address this problem,” she said.

“As a city, the vision of a liveable Durban includes living together with the homeless,” added Peer.

Also speaking at the event was Nomusa Shembe from the municipality’s safer cities unit. Shembe said that rapid urbanisation, unemployment, inequality, migration, family disputes and substance abuse were some of the contributing factors that led people to live on the streets. Shembe added that 354 homeless people were interviewed at Albert Park in recent years.

The data gathered had reflected that 80% of homeless were men over 18 years of age, 24% had matric qualifications and 90% were drug users.

According to Raymond Perrier, director of the Denis Hurley Centre which assists the homeless, statistics from years ago showed that there were 4 000 people on the streets each night and given the time that had passed, this equated to 3.9 million experiences of a night on the street.”I think we need to commend the deputy mayor for having the courage to call the meeting and ensuring such good representation from NGO’s, municipality, corporate stakeholders and members of the homeless themselves. Clearly the intention to create a high level task force shows that the municipality is now taking this seriously and they realise that they can only achieve change through partnership, but this does not mean that NGO’s do all the work and the municipality takes all the credit.

“We have a great report with good insights into the problem with concrete proposals which is two and a half years old and the NGO’s have been implementing this as far as they can. The main thing we need from the municipality is resources, commitment from personnel, and that they stop implementing policies that make homeless people’s lives worse, such as banning the use of showers, closing toilets after dark, and arresting the homeless. If they want to start doing good things they must start by stopping the bad things,” said Perrier.