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Homeless need both immediate and long-term care

SUNDAY 08 OCTOBER 2017 I For immediate release

Homeless people require both immediate care and long-term assistance to help them regain adequate shelter in the context of a stable community, according to the Salvation Army, an organisation that is active in caring for the homeless.

Speaking on the eve of World Homeless Day on Tuesday 10 October, Major Carin Holes, PR Secretary of the Salvation Army’s Southern Africa region, said: “Causes of homelessness range from complex personal circumstances to structural factors out of an individual’s control.”

She added that reasons may include lack of employment due to economic circumstances, or of lack of gainful employment, or of being unemployable. Poor mental health, substance abuse and addictions, domestic violence and the breakdown of family relationships also contribute to people becoming homeless.

“In South Africa, we have an additional factor caused by families in which one or both parents have died as a result of HIV/AIDS or a related illness, and children have been left to fend for themselves. Many of these children end up living on the streets,” she said.

Major Holmes said that in South Africa, temporary homelessness increases with localised flooding that occurs at this time of the year. This is often because poverty forces people to erect homes on flood plains.

The Salvation Army cares for homeless people through providing meals, free distribution of blankets and clothing, especially in winter, and shelters. The organisation also runs several homes for the elderly, in many instances preventing them from becoming homeless.

Last year, the East London branch of the Salvation Army ran a “street store” in which homeless people were given the opportunity to choose the donated clothes they want rather than accepting randomly selected items.

Some branches run thrift or charity stores in which clothing and other items can be purchased at nominal prices.

Major Holmes said that approximately 50 000 meals were served in 2016 by the Salvation Army, primarily to indigent people living on the streets. This excludes meals given out in the TSA’s social institutions, such as children’s homes.

She acknowledged that many of the street children and adults prefer living on the streets than at home, or in a shelter of some kind or a home for the destitute.

“Being in a home does mean discipline in some form or another, and some homeless people respond extremely negatively to this. To fully address the issue of homelessness — and to help create long-term stability — the Salvation Army therefore uses, within the restrictions of a limited budget, a continuum of care that ranges from early intervention, crisis accommodation, medium term care, and a range of counselling and rehabilitation services. All these services work together to return people into secure, long-term accommodation as part of a local community,” she said.

Major Holmes used the example of “Harvey” * to illustrate this: “I’m a pretty nice guy when I’m not drunk. I’ve been on the streets for the past 25 years and let me say I prefer it that way. It’s hard and dangerous most of the time, but I have freedom. Salvation Army helps me from time to time with food and the occasional bed for which I’m grateful.”

The roots of The Salvation Army’s care for the homeless go back to 1888 when the fledgling organisation started its first feeding scheme at Limehouse in the East End of London, England. William Booth, founder of TSA, responded to the suffering of people around him and the outworking of his philosophy that preaching the Gospel and practical concern for the physical needs of people must go hand in hand.

*Not his real name.

The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by love for God, and its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and meet human needs without discrimination.

The Southern Africa Territory of The Salvation Army encompasses four countries – South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho and Swaziland – and the island of St Helena. Its officers, soldiers and full-time employees provide their spiritual and community services through approximately 230 corps (churches), societies and outposts, as well as through schools, hospitals, institutions for children, street children, the elderly, men and abused women, and daycare, goodwill, rehabilitation and social centres.


Media Contact: Ruth Coggin
Quo Vadis Communications
Tel: 011-487-0026
Cell: 082-903-5819
CLICK HERE to e-mail Ruth Coggin

Client Contact: Major Carin Holmes
Public Relations Secretary
Tel: 011-718-6745
Cell: 082-994-4351
CLICK HERE to e-mail Carin Holmes