‘Encourage homeless people to change’

2018-04-10 06:00

Pastor Evariste Umba of the Life Change Ministry in Wynberg has spoken against the dehumanisation of homeless people. He shares his four years of experience trying to help a former hopeless drunk, Vuyo Themba (not his real name), to quit his habit and regain his dignity.

He says the ministry believes that homeless people should be treated with respect and be offered help. Umba says his ministry has been in existence for nine years and came into contact with Themba at a time when he was jobless and was constantly seen drunk near a local tavern in Wynberg.

The ministry helped Themba recover through their empowerment programmes. Once he had fully gained his confidence, Umba says they assisted him to apply for a job and he is now living a normal life, with a roof over his head every night. “We invited him once with his homeless friends into our drama class in Tenterden, where Andrew Hoffman was talking with them. Vuyo has journeyed with us for many years. Before he could drink himself to death, it was very difficult. But today he has been clean for a long time, working and renting in Philippi East.

“A homeless person is a human being with an origin, identity, knowledge, feelings and skills just like anyone else – the only difference is a home. The person has no home for many reasons – sometimes it could have been caused by the person or by some external factors such as family instability, loss of both parents or loss of a husband, loss of property and/or job, search for a safe community, or economic and social reasons. The greatest gift you can give a homeless person is to know and greet them by their name and assist if possible in family reunion.”

Umba advises the public to offer to help the homeless directly or by introducing them to a relevant NGO. He says the homeless can be assisted in many ways, including up-skilling them to enable them to find jobs or using social media to find their relatives.

Themba says it is through the word of God that he has succeeded and managed to turn his life around. After meeting Umba and other men of God, he gained faith and knew only God would rescue him. “I started praying and God heard me. I am now living a healthy life. I do not let my past define me. Now I would like to meet other homeless people who need help and give them words of hope. It is not easy, but quitting alcohol and life on the streets is the toughest journey. You need support and strong faith. I am happy I met Pastor Umba and his people,” says Themba.

Themba says the other thing he likes about the ministry is that they never forced him to join their congregation. He attends a different church for spiritual fulfilment but likes working with the Life Change Ministry in changing lives.

JP Smith, Mayco member for safety, security and social services, recently advised the public at a community meeting to stop mistreating homeless people and associating them with social illnesses just because they do not have formal structures and are jobless. “Not everyone living on the street chose to. Not all of them are criminals. If we can start showing humanity we would be able to reduce the number of vagrants in our communities,” said Smith.

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