Do We Ever Think Of Homeless People?

“The hardest thing is that they have to sleep on the floor. It doesn’t matter whether it’s raining or how cold it is,” explains Mpuseng Mosupye, 21, the founder of You Matter Foundation Africa.

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By Nthabiseng Mondhlana
Images supplied by Mpuseng Mosupye

Developing love and attachment to strangers is rare but it was not too difficult for Mpuseng Mosupye, a 21-year-old postgraduate student at the University of Johannesburg (UJ). She founded the You Matter Foundation Africa, which helps homeless people, in July 2021.

“The reason why I am on this earth is to do what I am doing in this organisation. I feel like we have let lack of proper housing and homelessness go too far,” she says. “We have normalised the issue and conditions in which people live. I feel like we shouldn’t make it normal for people to live in such conditions.”

Mosupye spent her NSFAS allowance on her first project. She bought t-shirts, banners and food; she then gathered her friends and family to assist in delivering the goods to targeted people.

Her first project was in Skougronde, Pretoria, where she first saw the inhuman conditions that homeless people are subjected to. “It felt good to do the first project because the first group we targeted were mostly women and children, and a few men as well,” she says. “It touched me.”

The role of You Matter Foundation Africa

On that day, they were able to provide over 65 meals. Mosupye knows exactly what poverty feels like from when she was growing up. “It was difficult because we did not have food on some days. Some days we would go to school without shoes because my grandmother was the only breadwinner and my aunties were not working,” she says.

You Matter Foundation has three focus goals: house development, food insecurity and helping young people who are struggling to break free from the chains of drug abuse. The foundation has joined forces with the Hope for Hopelessness Care Centre, which offers rehabilitation to young people with drug addictions. When it comes to food, Meat Good Cash and Carry provides the foundation with food parcels every month.

Mosupye believes that the issue of homelessness in South Africa is aggravated by unemployment. The homeless give in to drugs due to depression and anxiety. They end up going to the streets.

“We do not have young people in parliament who know the things that people are going through on the ground,” she claims, adding that they have encountered homeless people who possess university qualifications. One of them has a degree in Psychology from the University of South Africa.

“The hardest thing is that they have to sleep on the floor. It doesn’t matter whether it’s raining or how cold it is. They don’t have blankets and they don’t have food when they wake up; they literally don’t know where that next meal is going to come from.”

A life of homelessness

Many come to metropolitan cities with the hope of finding a job and end up homeless because of the costs of finding a stable shelter. Tsepo Mahlangu is from Kwaggafontein in Mpumalanga. Like many, he moved to Johannesburg to find a job and continue with his studies, but life in the City of Gold had rocks in store for him.

“I worked at Rosebank, but they never paid us. This thing became difficult [and] I found myself smoking drugs trying to release stress,” he says. Mahlangu has been living on the streets for seven years now. “I collect bottles. Sometimes, I get bread from the dustbins. If that bread is not spoiled, I take it,” says Mahlangu.

When it is cold, Mahlangu and his friends use plastics to keep warm. They are subjected to cruel treatment from the community during the night. He says people beat them up for sleeping on the streets. Others accuse them of stealing. “We smoke whoonga. Because we are always dirty, they assume that it is us who commit those crimes,” says Mahlangu’s friend.

Homeless people are increasing

Sepati Mushweshwe is from Daveyton and she’s been living on the streets for two years. She came to the City to look for employment after completing her matric. Her mother died in 2005 and she was raised by her father. But she couldn’t continue with her studies due to lack of funding.

“Living in the streets as a woman is difficult because you have to hustle and if you have no one to look out for you, you end up being a sexworker,” she explains that if that also fails, the only thing left to do is to steal just to stay alive.

The homeless are deeply affected by drug addiction. “When it comes to rehab, they do not take us seriously because even though we fill up forms, they take time to assist us. They tell us that they want people with spikes [high dose], meaning that we have to spike first before they assist us … We do not want to live like this anymore, if only we could get help.”

When it is cold, Mahlangu and his friends use plastics to keep warm. They are subjected to cruel treatment from the community during the night. He says people beat them up for sleeping on the streets. Others accuse them of stealing. “We smoke whoonga. Because we are always dirty, they assume that it is us who commit those crimes,” says Mahlangu’s friend.

Homeless people are increasing

Sepati Mushweshwe is from Daveyton and she’s been living on the streets for two years. She came to the City to look for employment after completing her matric. Her mother died in 2005 and she was raised by her father. But she couldn’t continue with her studies due to lack of funding.

“Living in the streets as a woman is difficult because you have to hustle and if you have no one to look out for you, you end up being a sexworker,” she explains that if that also fails, the only thing left to do is to steal just to stay alive.

The homeless are deeply affected by drug addiction. “When it comes to rehab, they do not take us seriously because even though we fill up forms, they take time to assist us. They tell us that they want people with spikes [high dose], meaning that we have to spike first before they assist us … We do not want to live like this anymore, if only we could get help.”

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