Homelessness | Western Cape Government

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Homeless man begging

Living on the streets is a challenge especially in winter. The struggle to get food is made worse by trying to stay warm and dry. Unfortunately, this is the reality for many people in our province.

You feel compelled to help, but what's the best way to make a lasting difference in a homeless person’s life? A hand-out might make the person begging from you to stop, but by giving money you encourage homeless people to avoid shelters and choose a life of begging on the street. By donating to a shelter you can change the life of a homeless person in a meaningful and lasting way.

Why are people homeless?

There are many factors why people become homeless and some of these factors are directly linked to why they remain homeless. Someone may become homeless because of:

  • Unemployment
  • Poverty
  • Domestic violence/abuse
  • No access to affordable housing/accommodation
  • Poor physical and/or mental health
  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Physical and/or sexual abuse
  • A breakdown in family and other relationships
  • Gambling

It’s estimated that there are about 4 862 homeless people in the greater Cape Town area and an estimated 700 live in the central business district (CBD).

Why shouldn’t I give money to street people?

Giving money directly to a homeless person doesn’t help to change their situation. The money might be used to buy food but for those dependent on drugs or alcohol, it will be a means to continue their addiction. The addict, in most cases, is using the drugs and alcohol to help them cope with their situation and by giving money you are keeping them in this cycle.

How can I help?

If you would like to assist someone living on the street, you can help them in the following ways:

Homeless peopleYou can assist shelters in the following ways:

  • Donating non-perishable and perishable food.
  • Donating clothes and shoes of various sizes and for both genders.
  • Donating household goods e.g. bedding, cutlery and crockery, etc. Please contact the shelter that you'd like to donate to first to get an idea of what their needs are.
  • Donating toiletries, such as shaving razors, deodorant, soap, toothpaste, shampoo, sanitary towels, etc., but first confirm with the shelter if they accept these items.
  • Assisting shelters with their fundraising events.
  • Arranging or donating to a collection drive in your community, employer, your place of worship, school, etc. and donate the collection to your nearest shelter.
  • Assisting the shelter with offers of building maintenance or donating building and cleaning materials to them but try and keep it in line with their needs.
  • Making a monetary donation into the banking account of registered organisations.

How is government assisting the homeless?

Western Cape Government

The Western Cape Government’s Department of Social Development (DSD) would like to encourage the public to give responsibly. This includes donating money, food, clothes, toys, bedding, etc. to registered Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) who works specifically with the homeless people in our towns and cities. The DSD assist the homeless by fully or partially funding Non-Governmental Organisations that work directly to get people off the streets and to empower them with skills-training, uniting them back with their families and integrating them into our communities.

The Western Cape Government’s Department of Social Development’s Winter Readiness Programme prioritises the homeless by providing R47.6-million to 29 shelters, which provides 1 401 beds each day.

The shelters render key social work services aimed at reunifying homeless adults with their families, with R16-million allocated to sustained family reunification services. The department is also working with NGO’s, to provide extra mattresses, food, and care packs to the poor. The Sustainable Livelihoods Programme funds a total of 75 targeted feeding sites across the province. Access to these sites is via the Department of Health, following an assessment by a registered social worker.

Cape Town Central City Improvement District (CCID)

The Cape Town Central City Improvement District partnered with various NGOs for their Show You Care initiative. You can view their online brochure to read about their initiative as well as their partner NGOs.

Government’s efforts are most effective when they work in partnership with NGOs and communities. You're encouraged to get involved through volunteering or donating to registered NGOs operating in the province.

An innovative project called Make Long Street Better, kicked off in April this year. The project is aimed at uplifting the lives of 8 homeless individuals in Long Street, Cape Town by providing them with work and the means to earn a living.

The 8 individuals entered into a 6-month contract with Streetscapes, and set to receive remuneration, training and assistance with administrative challenges such as ID documents applications and bank accounts. Read more about the project and their journey online. 

The content on this page was last updated on 13 December 2022