Homeless and LGBTI community must not be forgotten

A homeless man rests on the pavement in Pritchard street, Johannesburg. The writer says our most vulnerable communities such as the homeless and the LGBTI community, who still experience daily discrimination will remain the forgotten people within the Gauteng province.
A homeless man rests on the pavement in Pritchard street, Johannesburg. The writer says our most vulnerable communities such as the homeless and the LGBTI community, who still experience daily discrimination will remain the forgotten people within the Gauteng province.
Image: SIHLE MAKU/ Times

Last year, I raised the issues of homelessness and the lack of resources allocated to this sector and that this is not being prioritised.

I was shot down and told that homelessness is not the responsibility of the Gauteng provincial government and that local municipalities should take responsibility for this.

However, little did we know during last year's budget debate that we would be confronted with a worldwide pandemic such as Covid-19.

Had we prepared for homelessness back then, we would not have had the challenges we have had over the past few months when we were hit by this terrible pandemic and our country was placed under the lockdown.

Why are we yet again falling into this trap that we have not yet learnt from these mistakes?

Why have we still not ensured that homelessness is addressed in this budget and programmes?

Are we assuming that once the lockdown is lifted, we will remove all homeless people from the shelters and turn another blind eye towards them, assuming that it won't be our problem?

We have still not worked on increasing our capacity for social workers within the province who can assist with counselling during this current state of depression.

These social workers could have used this opportunity and the data collected to work on reintegration programmes for the most vulnerable and forgotten societies within Gauteng to ensure that we address homelessness in a pro-active manner.

I further raised questions about what the department is doing for the LGBTI community and targets were set for 1,000 LGBTI beneficiaries to be assisted with psycho-social services.

Yet only 79 have been assisted - 7.9% is a disgrace!

This proves once again that our most vulnerable communities such as the homeless and the LGBTI community, who still experience daily discrimination will remain the forgotten people within the Gauteng province.

We cannot only add these programmes to a list and hope that it will make us feel better as if we are working pro-actively to address concerns of the thousands within our province.

We need to consciously work towards addressing these issues. If a target is set, we need to ensure proper accountability and monitoring throughout the year to ensure that these targets are indeed being met.

I am disappointed that once again, 12 months later, we have not made any progress.

We, as the Democratic Alliance, can no longer turn a blind eye to the performance of this department and the lack of commitment to actively address the concerns of the LGBTI and homeless communities.

*Bosch is an MPL and DA Gauteng spokesperson for social development

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