Homelessness in South Africa

Street people sleeping in the Company Gardens, Cape Town.

Homelessness in South Africa dates back to the apartheid period.[1] Increasing unemployment, lack of affordable housing, social disintegration, and social and economic policies have all been identified as contributing factors to the issue.[2] Some scholars have argues that solutions to homelessness in South Africa lie more within the private sphere than in the legal and political spheres.[3]

There is no national census on homeless people in South Africa, researchers instead rely on individual studies of homeless persons in particular cities.[4] The South African homeless population has been estimated at approximately 200,000.[5]

One study found that three out of four South African metropolitan municipalities viewed homelessness primarily as a social dependency issue, responding with social interventions. At the same time, homeless South Africans indicated that the most important thing the municipality could assist them with was employment and well-located affordable housing.[6]


Child homelessness in South Africa has been portrayed in the novel Thirteen Cents by K. Sello Duiker.[7]

Sleeping on a public bench in gardens

Homelessness in South African cities has been portrayed in art in a controversial piece titled Birds in a Cornfield.[8]

See also


  1. Olufemi, Olusola. "Street homelessness in Johannesburg inner-city: a preliminary survey." Environment and Urbanization 10, no. 2 (1998): 223-234.
  2. Mji, Gubela. "Disability and homelessness: a personal journey from the margins to the centre and back." a south african agenda (2006): 350.
  3. Nussbaum, Martha C. "Introduction to comparative constitutionalism." Chi. J. Int'l L. 3 (2002): 429.
  4. Speak, Suzanne. "Relationship between children's homelessness in developing countries and the failure of women's rights legislation." Housing, Theory and Society 22, no. 3 (2005): 129-146.
  5. "Homelessness in South Africa".
  6. Du Toit, Jacques Louis. "Local metropolitan government responses to homelessness in South Africa." Development Southern Africa 27, no. 1 (2010): 111-128.
  7. Pucherova, Dobrota. "Re-Imagining the Other: The Politics of Friendship in Three Twenty-First Century South African Novels**." Journal of Southern African Studies 35, no. 4 (2009): 929-943.
  8. Atwater, Deborah F., and Sandra L. Herndon. "The use of public space as cultural communicator: How museums reconstruct and reconnect cultural memory." Understanding African American Rhetoric: Classical Origins to Contemporary Innovations (2003): 69.

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