Simon* has been attending the Tshepo soup kitchen for a long time, some times as a regular, other times missing for months before we saw him again. He expressed an interest in applying for an ID and Sassa card, which our social worker, Theki, assisted him with.
He had been on the street for decades; most of his life.
A lifetime: a lifetime of not knowing where your next plate of food will come from, of finding protection from the rain. Living on the edge of society.
Theki tried finding Simon’s family. This however, proved to be a difficult task, over time people move, phone numbers change and going back to a world you used to know, becomes a very daunting task.
Eventually, while visiting a rural community for the dedication of a family member of hers, Theki managed to reconnect the dots. While sitting under the tree, consulting the elders, she was able to put the pieces together.
Theki found out that he had family living in a nearby township and started the process of reunification by facilitating several sessions with his family. Initially he was very reluctant, and opposed, to the idea of going to an old age home or even meeting with his family.
After some time the presence and warmth of his family started opening him up to the idea of change. His family members manged to find him a space in an old age home near them. And he agreed.
For the first time in decades, Simon had a warm bed to sleep in and was able to spend Christmas with people who love him.
We realise that his story is a drop in the bucket when we look at the larger picture. But for one individual to be reconciled, get off the street and have their dignity restored, is a big deal and gives us courage to hope.
*Simon is not his real name. The name was changed to protect his dignity and privacy.