Homelessness in Africa

Learn about homelessness in the South African Region!

What is Homelessness?

Homelessness is the lack of adequate housing (water piped into house, basic sanitary necessities, and drainage of sewage).

Myths about Homelessness

Homelessness is a choice
  • For some people it is, but many people have to leave their homes due to domestic abuse, mental illness, disabilities, and/or unfortunate financial fallout

Homeless people don't work


  • About half of the people on the streets have jobs or pick up odd jobs here and there
  • Even if they have jobs they often do not make enough to afford a house

Housing provided should have conditions


  • The group Pathways to D.C. has a program that gets people into houses and the rate of people leaving their houses after a year was only 3%
  • 100,000 Homes in Philadelphia found that 85% of people given homes unconditionally were still in their homes 2-years later
  • Studies have shown that people given housing with no conditions and access to programs to help with addiction are more likely to stay in housing than people given homes and forced to enter counseling for their problems

What is Currently Happening in South Africa?

Roughly 56% of people in South Africa live impoverished lives


7.5 million South Africans lack adequate housing


There is a deficit of 2.5 million homes


In 2008, Cape town alone had 7,383 homeless people living in the streets or in shelters

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Who's trying to fix it?

There are many groups doing many things to help resolve the problem of homelessness.


There are groups:

Building Houses

  • Habitat for Humanity South Africa
  • Niall Mellon Township Trust
  • Projects Abroad South Africa
  • Homeless Peoples Federation
  • South African Government

Running Homeless Shelters

  • The Haven Night Shelter
  • Strabane Mercy Centre for the homeless
  • Summerset West Night Shelter

Advocating for New Laws

  • Western Cape Anti-Eviction campaign
  • Abahlali BaseMjondolo
  • Homeless Peoples Federation
My Mother Built This House - South Africa

In Depth

Homelessness has been a problem in South Africa for a long time. In fact it is a problem almost anywhere people live. There are always people who are unfortunate or just make decisions that led to their homeless situation. South Africa has a major problem with it compared to many other countries. In a 2014 census, South Africa had an unemployment rate of 24% compared to the U.S.'s 5%. One of the main contributing factors to this large percent is people trying to escape rural poverty by moving to the city. When those people can't find jobs they become homeless and usually end up in a shack community.


Many groups are trying to help those in shack communities gain acces to better housing. A group called the Homeless People's Federation has taken a different approach to this problem than other groups. They have their members save money into a group savings account. Those savings are then used to build houses for the members. Once a house is built the person who it was built for pays off the cost. That money then goes back into the pool to fund a new house and the cycle continues. Older members get precedence over newer members due to having saved more. This way of funding the houses also allows the future owner to have their house built how they want it. They can have it be bigger or smaller, shorter or taller, and even fatter or skinnier. It doesn't matter as long as they pay back the Federation what money they had to loan. Through this proccess they hav built over 10000 homes for their members.


The Homeless Peoples Federation is doing alot, but the government is doing alot more. Under Nelson Mandela's government, over a million homes were built in 5 years. These homes provided electricity, water, and sanitation for the owner. Although it took many years for the government to start doing anything about the homeless issue, the people are glad that something is being done, especially of this magnitude. These RDP (Reconstruction and Development Program) houses are very basic. They are a step up from shacks, but not that far above them by many peoples standards. Even then, the people that live in them feel extremely happy to just have a home.

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What can I do?

To start, simply donating to organizations that help South African homeless people is a great idea. Its really easy to do, just go to their website and insert your information to donate. If you prefer a more direct approach, you could join a charity that takes trips over to South Africa to build houses, like Projects Abroad South Africa. While over there you would build houses with your own hands. If you dont't want to do that you could send money to support a child with food, water, and clothes.

Anything that you can do means alot to the homeless people of South Africa