Thanksgiving to the homeless

About 160 people gathered to celebrate the work done by U-turn Homeless Ministries at Oaks Room on Thursday 30 August.

Organisers say this year’s annual celebration was one of their efforts to promote and protect the dignity of homeless people while also empowering them. The ministry prides itself in investing in the future of the homeless for a long-term pathway out of homelessness with a multiphased programme.

The celebration created a platform to discuss the findings from their recent public survey on homelessness. The organisation also announced their plan to focus on expanding skills development even further.

Rowen Ravera from U-turn says: “While the word ‘homeless’ has come to mean hopeless for society, at U-turn we have seen enough lives transformed to know that every homeless person who walks through our doors has the potential to live a full and productive life. Overall, we want the homeless and the public to know there is life after homelessness and we need to begin the journey today. So we restore the dignity of the homeless by believing in their potential and investing in it. This in turn helps our community. We want our community to realise the problem is systemic, and that we need to invest in a long-term solution instead of quick fixes.”

She says Cape Town faces a huge challenge of homelessness and it could escalate.

“We cannot afford to ignore the problem. We want to send a message that there is a slow disaster at play in South Africa. If we had the number of homeless people we currently have happen overnight, our City would be declared a disaster area. But because it’s a slow creeping phenomenon, we turn a blind eye.”

Revera says this has been proven by the responses to their recent survey, which she says showed that over 80% of survey takers agreed that homelessness “affects us all, impacting on business, tourism and safety”.

“Nearly 80% wanted to address homelessness to reduce human suffering. And the results showed that the majority felt the most effective solutions were skills development,” she says.

According to Revera, U-turn provides food and clothing to the homeless at their drop-in service centre behind Stadium on Main. They also serve over 1000 people annually.

“When the homeless access basic needs we work quickly to form a relationship through group activities, motivational interviewing and therapy. From there we screen for people ready to start our drug and alcohol rehabilitation support programme which lasts on average three to four months. Graduates from rehabilitation can join our Life Change programme which lasts on average two years. This is a work-based rehabilitation and skills development programme. They are placed in a working opportunity within U-turn, working alongside us, usually at one of our six charity stores where they gain work experience and skills, while accessing weekly therapy and training.”

U-turn will soon embark on a big clothing drive to mark World Homeless Day on Wednesday 10 October. They are appealing to the public for winter clothing.V U-Turn accepts donations throughout the year, For more information, email info@homeless.org.za.