You cannot fix a problem if you don’t know the extent of it. For example, we know that homelessness is a huge issue in South Africa. Informal settlements spring up seemingly overnight. Unscrupulous operators prey on the poor by illegally ‘selling’ or renting plots they don’t own. This leads to anger, heartbreak and hopelessness when authorities evict illegal squatters and destroy shacks built with all their meagre resources.
Unfortunately, we don’t know the extent of the problem because national statistics aren’t available. The first step would be a major research project to determine the number of homeless people and their needs. This would involve Government and other NGOs working in the field.
Currently there is no list of available shelters and the accommodation and services they offer. This makes it difficult to refer people in need to a suitable place.
SSvP is often called on to help relocate poor people. Reasons for travel include: reuniting long lost family members; transporting sick people to hospitals for treatment; and taking terminally ill people home so they may die with loved ones.
Instead of putting people on busses and trains, we’d like to develop a more cost effective solution based on research into various routes, off peak usage and discounts for charities.
Applying for an ID document, or having a lost or stolen document replaced, is a huge challenge for poor and homeless people. We’d like to see a proper information service that would help them understand the requirements and process, as well a an electronic payment system to reduce the risk of carrying cash.
There are hundreds of groups doing all kinds of charitable work in South Africa. The Catholic Church itself has several groups, and it’s not uncommon to hear that some of these groups do similar or identical work.
While there’s no doubting the good intentions, charities would be more effective if they coordinated their efforts and eliminated duplicate services. Wouldn’t it be great if we could get together to create a national database of who does what? It would also be tremendously helpful to those requiring assistance.