The church's response to homelessness
The Centre for Public Witness in collaboration with MES, Straatwerk and Groote Kerk, presented an informative conference about the homelessness crisis. This event was attended by several experts and active role players regarding the homeless, including Rev. De La Harpe le Roux of the Towers of Hope Congregation in Bloemfontein. The voices of formerly homeless people were also heard. Braam Hanekom highlights some of the most important insights:
"The complexity and layeredness of the challenge are apparent. Homeless people are not a homogeneous group and there is also no single and simple solution. A distinction must be made between 'houseless' and 'homeless' people. What we see, is the result of a broken community of which we are part of.
To adequately address the homelessness crisis, the church will have to physically move much closer to these homeless communities. How do we change our exclusive spaces into truly inclusive spaces? Converting redundant church buildings and spaces into safe havens for people who would otherwise sleep on the street, was discussed in detail, as well as comprehensive and holistic strategies that culminate in the reintegration of homeless people into the wider society.
However, we are urgently looking for congregations that are willing to get their hands dirty and get involved in the messiness of such a journey. It does not have to be chaotic. We are looking for congregations that are willing to build small life-giving communities. Relationships are the key here. In the meantime, we need to gather much better data on the challenge and urgent talks should now follow with the city. The Western Cape Ecumenical Network will also address this matter." For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The report on the church's response to the homeless challenge is available here: