u-turn 25 birthday

Our brothers and sisters are drowning in drugs, prostitution and crime in the townships and Cape Flats.

Days and months go by without families seeing them around, but no one regards them homeless.

If we don’t bother ourselves to search for them around the nearest neighbourhoods, we might never see them again.

Many parents have buried their children who were homeless or at risk of being homeless in these communities and life goes on just like that.

Are councillors and other community leaders getting involved enough in assisting families and communities to address homelessness in townships?

To curb this gap, I believe we need the establishment of programmes that will teach residents about what homelessness is in these communities.

If we don’t start with this education aspect sooner, then the disintegration happening in townships and on the Cape Flats will continue until it becomes a mountain that cannot be resolved.

Of course, most youth are subjected to brokenness, whether through past traumatic experiences which haunt them daily, or just life hardships that they are faced with.

Some still have scars inflicted by apartheid, forced removals which left thousands of families displaced and broken.

Some of these incidents of past injustices have a direct and indirect role in the lives of many people.

And when I talk of the involvement of councillors and community leaders in addressing homelessness, I am not just referring to establishing and promoting a sustainable social housing environment; I am talking about innovative solutions that can be adopted in townships to permanently empower people who are at risk of being homeless.

For example, we need councillors to start tackling drugs and crime challenges which lead to many people, especially young people, leaving their homes to be street dwellers and have unstable accommodation.

Each community must have an office with social workers working together with the councillor to offer therapeutic programmes that empower young people in facing these challenges. We need more mental health community support services and peer support programmes championed by community leaders.

We want to see community leaders reversing the displacement of people in townships and Cape Flats, where being a councillor isn’t only about pleasing your constituents and being key political players, but serving and saving the youth from the social ills that destroy generational and future successes in our communities.

Mental health shouldn’t be taboo in townships.

Homelessness is devastating, regardless of age and for young people, in particular, it has serious physical, emotional and psychological implications, and to end homelessness in townships, young people must be assisted with stable supportive connections and access to mainstream services that will place them on a path to long-term success.

Organisations like U-Turn Homeless Ministries and Face2Face community programme does this successfully to benefit those whose lives need transformation.

Councillors need to encourage collaborations with civil organisations to reunify youth with a support system where they feel safe and supported.

We need to see young people in the townships saved from homelessness and drugs, and be assisted with support to attain education and employment. – Siwaphiwe Myataza-Mzantsi

Originally published in the Cape Times on 12 June 2023

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