This past week, on Twitter, I was challenged over what I exactly stand for.
In actual fact, the person challenging me went so far as to not only assume but declare that I am “an ANC servant” and proceeded to also enlighten me on what my job was: “To spew fake news and rubbish”.
She then goes on to spew her own uninformed rubbish about the “phenomenal” work being done by the City of Cape Town with regard to the homeless.
So, I thought I would use my column this week to explain, especially to those that have not been on this journey with me for the past three years but might have only recently started reading it, who I am, what my qualifications are and what my mission and vision are for all I do, including writing this column.
I am someone, who besides having a degree in the social sciences specialising in psychology and sociology (bestowed on me cum laude by the University of Pretoria many moons ago), feel most qualified to speak and write on the topic of homelessness by having worked in the sector for four years prior to becoming homeless myself and then most importantly, having spent six years living as a homeless person on the streets of Cape Town.
I was one of those individuals who was taken to the now notorious Strandfontein camp.
Since coming out of homelessness, I have dedicated my life to helping others come off the streets and I attempt to, in sharing my lived experience of having experienced homelessness, break down preconceived and prejudicial myths about homelessness and those experiencing it.
I imagine a world where everyone has a place to call home.
Each day, I work to fight homelessness by giving it a face while educating individuals about the systemic issues that contribute to its existence.
Through storytelling, education, news, and activism, I aim to change the narrative on homelessness.
The real and unfiltered stories of homelessness I share aim to shatter stereotypes, demand attention and deliver a call-to-action that needs to be answered by governments, major brands, non-profit organisations, and everyday citizens just like you.
There is a great deal of work to be done on the road ahead. Homelessness is undoubtedly one of our biggest societal issues today and will only continue to grow if we don’t take action now. It’s one of the most challenging problems we face as a society. It’s also one of the most solvable.
The first step to solving homelessness is acknowledging that its victims are people. Regular people. Fathers. Mothers. Sons. Daughters. Whole families. Individuals who fell on hard times and lost their core foundation of being human – their homes.
There is also a direct correlation between what the general public perceives about homelessness and how it affects policy change.
Most people blame homelessness on the person experiencing it instead of the increasing shortage of affordable housing, lack of employment, a living wage, or the countless other reasons.
This lack of understanding creates a dangerous cycle of misperception that leads to the inability to effectively address the root causes of homelessness.
I believe people should be valued, seen, and accepted for who they are, and not judged by their circumstances.
We should demonstrate patience, kindness, humility, and flexibility in our interactions with the people we meet who are living on the streets.
In all that I do, I try to grow my community by driving awareness.
* Carlos Mesquita.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.
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