South Africa: Down and Out in Johannesburg - Understanding Homelessness

analysis

Sunday 21 March is Human Rights Day in South Africa. One of the rights in our Constitution is the right of 'everyone to have access to adequate housing'. And yet homelessness is growing. In a series of articles being published over the next three days, Maverick Citizen asked homeless people to write about their experiences. First, an overview of the homeless crisis in Johannesburg.

There is a stereotype of a homeless person, sometimes called a street- or rough-sleeper. He is a man. He's a loner and a beggar, mentally ill or "immoral" and helpless. If he sleeps under a bridge, in a park, or in a shop doorway, he is most likely a drug addict or an alcoholic. He doesn't have a job, is lazy and has no family or friends to help him.

In reality, people who are nothing like this become homeless. In Johannesburg, there is an extreme shortage of affordable accommodation. Unemployment has skyrocketed and if you are not working and don't have a regular income, it's almost impossible to find a permanent, decent and secure place to live in a central part of town.

Gladys Qhoba has lived on the streets of Johannesburg for more than...

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