10 July 2009

Homeless in South Africa

So, yes, I'm currently homeless in South Africa. If I think about it too much I start to get a little anxious, so I just try not to think about it that hard : )

Rather than stay in Pretoria through this site change, our Peace Corps Country Director has me visiting volunteers to help with their work. It's nice to be productive during this transition period. With a change of scenery, I'm already feeling better about moving to a new site, wherever that may be.

Being temporarily homeless, I was thinking about the people in South Africa who are homeless homeless, like squatter-camp homeless, not like my current couch-surfing homelessness. I'm lucky that I'm under the auspices of Peace Corps so that I can still get money for food and transportation, but there are so many others who are without a solid roof - or they're living in a shanty spot.

The South African government has these housing sites called RDP (Reconstruction and Development Programme) where they build low-cost housing for people who are homeless in South Africa. From what I've heard from South Africans, often times the houses are built first without hooking up water or any electricity, so really it's only like one step up from being actually homeless.

There are lots of opinions on how effective these housing projects actually are - especially considering the corruption that seems to surround these RDP sites. Some people will buy them and then rent the rooms at a spiked cost.

Recently, I was visiting a fellow volunteer friend and near her village is a site of these RDP housing developments. The 'houses' have only two rooms and often times multiple people live in these houses. Most sites have pit toilets (outhouses if you're from the country) and there are normally taps or boreholes nearby where people can get water.

I took a video to show you what it looks like. At the beginning of the video, you can kind of hear the beginning of Higher Love by Steve Winwood (from the late 80s/90s) playing on the radio. I thought it was quite the appropriate song to play as I took the video of these RDP houses since Winwood sings "things look so bad everywhere; in this whole world, what is fair?" (The full lyrics are linked in case you're interested. It's a really great song, especially for soundtracks.)

RDP Housing Site in Rural North West Province, South Africa
(23 seconds)

It's such a different reality to see these types of housing developments and then see the richness of other areas in the country. The gap between the haves and have-nots in South Africa is among the highest in the world, if not the highest.

So, for now I'm couch-surfing. But I have some leads on new sites and will hopefully have an update soon.

Sala sentle,


1 comment:

Lisa Gibala Warren said...

The homeless sure miss your help here. When I take my walk around the neighborhood it is impossible to overlook the new homeless all around. And these are just those making their presence known. It is scary times everywhere. But yes, you may in fact be witnessing the most intense example of haves vs have nots.

Hang in there.