Being homeless is not a crime — conflating criminality and homelessness is a dangerous stereotype

Ndifuna Ukwazi: Treating the life-sustaining activities of street-based people as a criminal nuisance, in the manner that the City of Cape Town’s by-laws do, will perpetuate the stereotype that all people experiencing homelessness are criminals.

Western Cape High Court Judge Judith Cloete recently handed down judgment in the contentious matter between The Six building sectional title body corporate and the City of Cape Town relating to street-based people living in a vacant city-owned parking lot in District Six, Cape Town.

The essence of the dispute relates to the behaviour of street-based people, such as making fires, which allegedly amounts to criminal nuisance in contravention of several by-laws.

The body corporate’s gripe is an understandable one. It claims that the right of the building’s inhabitants to a healthy environment (protected in section 24 of the Constitution) is jeopardised by the city’s failure to enforce its own by-laws in relation to street-based people’s consumption of drugs; making open fires; screaming and shouting at all times of the day and night; public urination and defecation with the attendant foul odours; nudity and open sexual activity; abundant trash in overgrown grass and weeds; and harassment, assaults and intimidation of residents of the building.

Read the full article: Being homeless is not a crime — conflating criminality and homelessness is a dangerous stereotype

Photo by Mihály Köles on Unsplash

9 May, 2023
Type of Update:
In the Courts
In the News
Courts Systems
Human Rights
Use of Public Spaces
South Africa

The Campaign to Decriminalise Poverty and Status is a coalition of organisations from across the world that advocate for the repeal of laws that target people based on poverty, status or for their activism.


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