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George Municipality Addresses Homelessness Through Holistic Approach

In the photo standing on the left is a facilitator of Parenting Training, Ms Sonika Bardenhorst (Social Worker at Kidstop) and sitting on the right is Mr Jonathan Gelderbloem, the Chairperson of PLOTS, Kidstop

The George Municipality is actively engaged in addressing homelessness through a comprehensive forum dedicated to working with People Living on the Streets (PLOTS). The primary focus of this initiative is reunification services, aiming to integrate people back into communities successfully. Sophia Fanelo, the Community Development Manager at George Municipality, emphasises the complexity of this process, highlighting the need to address the root causes of homelessness to ensure a permanent and successful reintegration.

The municipality coordinates a collaborative effort, bringing together various stakeholders such as the Department of Social Services (DSD), the South African Police Service (SAPS), Christian Rehabilitation Ministries to the Homeless of George (CREMHOG), People Against Substance Abuse (PASA), Smoking & Alcohol Harms Alleviation & Rehabilitation Association (SAHARA), the Department of Health, Stop Trafficking, and the Department of Justice. Fanelo invites other organisations to join the forum to collectively contribute to holistically addressing homelessness.

As part of their holistic approach, the Community Development Department at George Municipality tackles all factors influencing reunification. The ongoing jobseekers programme assists in economic empowerment by providing support in creating CVs and completing application forms for homeless individuals.

Fanelo highlights recent initiatives, including surveys conducted with SAHARA from 5 to 8 February 2024 to identify new residents on the streets and intervene accordingly. A wellness program on 16 February 2024, in partnership with the Department of Health, focused on sexually transmitted diseases and HIV testing.

The proactive efforts have resulted in positive outcomes, with three people relocating to night shelters and seven individuals successfully reunified with their families in George. Referrals are made to the Department of Social Services for minors found on the streets.

The municipality hosted a parent training from 20 to 22 February 2024 for parents currently on the streets, aiming for future reunification with their loved ones. The programme was facilitated by Kidstop. Additionally, a sewing program has been initiated, accommodating a limited number of participants due to resource constraints.

Fanelo concludes by urging collective action, emphasising that everyone can make a difference, one step at a time, and encouraging individuals to contribute solutions rather than complaints.