Homelessness is a social and economic problem that contributes negatively to aspects of society. Knowledge about this phenomenon is often inaccurately understood and it is important for communities to be educated regarding the consequences of homelessness. Furthermore, the definition for “homeless” is highlighted by (Mohamed, 2008:1) as individuals whose shelter is the streets including pavements, benches, parks or bus stops.
It is evident that those who are homeless often participate and turn to crime in order to fulfil their basic needs however, they are also victims of crime and violence. This creates a multifaceted problem as their environment impacts them equally to them impacting the environment. Moreover, ecological processes like disorder and social disorganisation largely contribute to the phenomenon and creates a lack of social cohesion. Furthermore, the effects of this phenomenon is often explained by focusing on how the homeless is effected, and not on the impacts it has on communities, more importantly crime. This shows that there is a lack of literature that focuses on the understanding of homelessness and crime.
The NIHSS research niche that will be focused on in this study is environmental and ecological alternatives and with this social cohesion- addressing inequalities and promoting nation building will be considered as the UKZN flagship.
1.2 Problem Statement
Society creates people and in return people create society. This is evidently true with the case of homelessness as many are the product of a failing system. In comparison, (van der Linde, 2016:1) mentions that there are approximately 4000 homeless people living on the streets in Durban central, showing that the problem of homelessness in Durban is rife and has an inevitable impact on the environment. (Dube, 2015:21) highlights that although the definition of homelessness focuses on housing it should also include the problem of other social ills, like crime and violence. The homeless is often victims of crime rather than the perpetrators, (Sadiki, 2016:3) states that homeless people are victimised more often than that of the general population, which results in the notion of an eye for an eye due to the lack of trust in police officials.
In the perspective of the public, homeless individuals are seen as a threat. Survival crime is committed on a daily basis by the homeless in order to fulfil their basic needs. Residents who live near the urban parks of Durban are often afraid to walk through the parks as they have witnessed the intoxicating state of those who reside there, including the fear of falling victim to crime like theft. However, (Sadiki, 2016:4) mentions that crime is also unexpectedly reported by the homeless due to acts of violence committed against them by the members of their own community, proving that they are unprotected and susceptible to ill treatment.
Drugs amongst other factors contribute to crime amongst the homeless in Durban. (Asmal, 2014:1) states that Whoonga is a drug made from heroin, rat poison and cleaning detergents. It is believed that this drug contains medication that helps with the treatment of HIV. This has led to various robberies committed against patients at clinics for the sole purpose of supporting a habit. Although this is true, drug use amongst the homeless gives us insight into the cruel environment they endure daily. Drugs like Whoonga has the effect of creating a lack of appetite which sustains the user without the need of nutrition or food.
The homeless often causes challenges in regards to their environment and policing. EThekwini Municipality of Durban mentions that the purpose of protecting the city’s parks are to provide clean air for the public and to preserve nature for future generations. However, the homeless create a problem in these areas due to the fact that they do not have proper infrastructure for healthy living. They often cut down trees in these parks for fire and carry out activities that are seen as public offences for example, washing clothes and bathing in public.
1.3 Purpose of this research
The researcher chose to research this area due to the lack of information regarding homelessness, and the effects it has on crime and communities in Durban. This research pursues the cause and effects of homelessness in Durban inner city. The researcher aimed to substantiate factors that causes homelessness and in return how homelessness creates problems, specifically its contribution to crime.
Moreover, the purpose of this study is to focus on how homelessness and crime is linked in Durban inner city in order to create a broader understanding of this phenomena.
1.4 Objectives of the research
1) To substantiate factors that cause homelessness in Durban inner city.
2) The effects of homelessness on crime and communities in Durban.
3) Non-violent and violent crimes that are committed by the homeless.
4) Proposed ways in which homelessness and crime can be reduced in Durban.
The objectives of the research has led to the following key research questions.
1.5 Research Questions
1) How long has the research participants been homeless?
2) Where do the participants reside?
3) What has caused the participants to become homeless?
4) Has the research participants been a victim or witness of crime?
The purpose of this chapter is to create a broader understanding about homelessness and crime in Durban. Related literary sources will be highlighted that discusses the research topic in order to create this understanding. This chapter begins to substantiate factors that evidently causes homelessness. The chapter will then shift to the effects and impacts homelessness has on crime and communities of Durban. Furthermore, the crime committed by the homeless will also be highlighted and ranges from non-violent to violent crime. All information in this chapter is westernised and this shows a gap for literature about the topic in a South African perspective.
2.2 Causes of Homelessness
There are various causes of homelessness in Durban. EThekwini Municipality highlights that the major causes of homelessness is unemployment, poverty, lack of affordable housing, lack of accessible healthcare and migration. In comparison, (Sands ; Atkey, 2007:4) elaborates that changes we face in the economy and workforce increase homelessness. People without basic skills battle to compete and find work. These homeless job seekers who are not able to gain an income flee to more urbanised and centralised areas where competing for jobs and housing rapidly increases. The housing market does not cater for low-income individuals. It has become more profitable to cater for those who earn a high income. This leaves many without shelter and increases the amount of people who live on the streets.
Furthermore, (Sands ; Atkey, 2007:5) mentions that personal risk factors are a major cause of homelessness. Individuals often find themselves at risk due to personal circumstances, for example mental illness. Lack of support and health care for these individuals who cannot live independently increase street living. Moreover, substance abuse contribute to all these factors. Those who abuse drugs or alcohol often find it difficult to manage a job, house and family. This results in unemployment, poverty, weak family bonds and a lack of peer support.
The poor are not the only individuals who become homeless. (Sands ; Atkey, 2007:6) further elaborates that family violence and abuse are also a reason people leave their homes, (Okumu, 2006:24) mentions that factors like violent household creates risks of physical, emotional and spiritual abuse. Teenagers run away from home for these reasons and end up homeless. These negative family dynamics does not only cause personal distress for individuals, but creates an empirical reason to leave the comfort of a home environment.
Dr. Mohamed conducted a survey in Durban to specify why homelessness is a continuing issue. He found that 70% of his participants is living on the street due to unemployment. 1.3% combined with unemployment live on the streets due to poverty. Furthermore, 71% are barely surviving due to low income levels. (Mohamed, 2008:5) states that the average income per day for the majority (55%) of the participants were R2.00 (two rand). This proves that many cannot afford housing, food or health care.
2.3 Effects of Homelessness
The effects of homelessness are considerably broad. It effects communities and society as a whole. (Sands ; Atkey, 2007:3) mentions that the biggest effect of homelessness is the breakdown of communities. People in communities are morally affected by homelessness due to sharing spaces with homeless individuals. (Sands ; Atkey, 2007:3) further mentions that the public justifies the conditions of homeless individuals by commenting that they put themselves in that position or that they chose to be homeless. The lack of social cohesion is an inevitable effect of homelessness as stated by, (Sands ; Atkey, 2007:3). Societies where inequality relating to income and distribution of resources are known, largely effects social cohesion. This causes uncertainty and fear in these areas.
Homelessness divides communities. (Sands ; Atkey, 2007:3) highlights that the homeless are often stigmatised, causing members of communities to be less supportive in assisting the homeless with their troubles. In comparison, this causes homeless individuals to be isolated and creates a feeling of shame. Moreover, social harmony is disrupted in this context. Conflicts occurs when members of the public can not enjoy community spaces, for example parks. These individuals feel frightened and uneasy to share spaces with the homeless, increasing negative perceptions.
2.4 Homelessness and Crime
Crime amongst the homeless is rife due to poverty stricken conditions and the need for survival. (Fischer, 2008:1) highlights that non-violent crimes are often committed by the homeless and is rather seen as a disturbance to the public than serious crimes. This includes crimes like illegal camping in public spaces, public indecency and vandalism. However, more often crimes like theft and robbery are committed by the homeless in order to sustain a living and to obtain money. Another side of non-violent crimes committed by the homeless has to do with that of the environment. (White, 2013: 11) further elaborates on this statement by adding that littering and dumping as well as the making of fires in public spaces contribute to crimes against the environment. Not only does this costs the municipality money as regular clean ups has to be done, but also effects the state and use of public spaces.
Although this is true, homeless individuals are also involved in violent crimes. (Fischer, 2013:2) mentions that often violent crimes and mental health are related. Homeless people with mental illnesses such as schizophrenia are more likely to be involved in violent crimes. This includes crimes such as murder, rape and aggravated assault. An example of a violent act committed in Durban by a homeless individual was the recent report of a women being raped by a homeless man in Mitchell’s Parks public restroom. This shows that violent crimes are present amongst the homeless in Durban and that this certainly impacts the Durban community.
Furthermore, the homeless should not always be considered as being feared, but also the fearing. This means that although crime is committed by the homeless, often the homeless are also victims of crime. (Kinsella, 2012: 125) states that homeless people face off many forms of harassment and hate crime. In comparison, homeless individuals often fear falling victim of crime by other homeless individuals due to intimidation or assault, because they have something someone else needs. In a report published by the Mail Guardian, Paaristha Oomadath a member of the Foundation and the South African Peace Network mentioned that homeless individuals battle to find places to sleep in Durban due to constant harassment by the SAPS and private security guards hired by the municipality. News 24 contributes by adding that policy’s in Durban has allowed that Durban’s homeless people be removed from the streets and dumped outside the city. This leaves them without any of their belongings or shelter.
This study is concerned about how homelessness and crime is linked in Durban inner city. Therefore, this chapter will consider different theoretical frameworks that will outline and explain homelessness and crime in Durban. Theories are an important aspect of research as it is not only used to solve problems but also give insight into different aspects of the problem faced. Moreover, this chapter will look at four theories that will explain why homeless individuals contribute to crime and why they become victims of crime. These theories are: Social disorganisation theory, labelling theory, strain theories and the routine activity approach.
3.2 Social disorganisation theory
This theory was created by Clifford R. Shaw and Henry D. McKay. (Cullen & Wilcox, 2010:3) highlights that this theory is concerned with crime rates in communities and the reason for these rates rather than considering why some commit crime where others don’t. Furthermore, this emphasises that communities that are organised and experiences social interaction and social cohesion will have low crime rates due to a strong network of relationships however, (Cullen ; Wilcox, 2010: 6) further mentions that in places where no social networks, poverty and residential instability are present crime rates are high. Thus informal control needs to be present to ensure the safety of people within communities.
Homelessness is a social problem and thus contributes indirectly and directly to the social disorganisation theory. The homeless who reside in public community base areas contribute to an element of poverty and residential instability and this will evidently lead to a lack of social cohesion. Homelessness then indirectly create high crime rates for a community. These individuals also contribute to crime rates directly by being active in committing crime in disorganised communities. Examples are theft, drug use and drug distribution.
3.3 Labelling theory
Howard Becker was one of the minds behind this theory from the University of Chicago. He argues that labels are something we apply to people and then result in how they get treated thereafter. (Slattery, 2003:135) states that according to this theory there are no such thing as a deviant person, but deviance is rather a behaviour that gets labelled as criminal according to how the person carries out this behaviour. Becker highlighted 3 stages of labelling. Public labelling, master label and becoming deviant. (Slattery, 2003:136) explains that firstly the public labels a person informally, but later instead of seeing the person as acting deviant, he or she gets labelled as being a deviant person. Secondly, after these labels are given to a person they become the master label. This means that people look at this person differently and do not see them in the same light. Everything they were gets overridden and they become what there label says. Lastly, how this person is perceived contributes to how they perceive themselves, and most live up to their label.
Labelling the homeless as deviant and criminal contributes to high crime rates in Durban. The public fears the homeless due to them believing that they cannot co-exists in the same proximity without being a target of crime. This has resulted in many living up to that label because they start perceiving themselves as criminals and then commit crime.
3.4 Strain theories
Strain theories are about stressors that causes a person to commit crime. Strains and stressors cause anger, frustration and negative emotions. (Agnew, 2001:323) highlights that stressors that are likely to result in crime are goal blockage, loss of positive stimuli and the presence of negative stimuli. Goal blockage includes not be able to obtain something or being blocked due to various reasons like financial issues. Negative stimuli could include the negative presence of others or factors. The loss off positive stimuli are when good conditions are made bad, or there are no longer a positive stimuli.
In comparison to the topic, homeless individuals experience all of these strains. They often do not have any money and is thus financially blocked and cannot obtain food or any necessities. This results in anger and frustrations and more likely crime. Another example of goal blockage has to do with drugs. Most homeless individuals are dependent on drugs and when they don’t have access to drugs they will commit crime in order to obtain it. The homeless often experience negative stimuli due to being harassed by law officials and other homeless individuals. This creates anger and most respond violently which results in a crime being committed. Moreover, the loss of positive stimuli could be when bad weather is being experienced and they have to break into a building for shelter, or they have been removed off the street where they are sleeping and this results in committing crime for shelter.
3.5 Routine activity approach
This theory is included in the theoretical framework in order to explain how homeless individuals also become victims of crime and how they are linked to crime in this way. (Miro, 2014:1) mentions that this theory was created by Cohen and Felson in 1979. Routine activity approach examines 3 factors that contribute to a person being victimised: a motivated offender, lack of a capable guardian and a suitable target. (Miro, 2014:1) further explains that a motivated offender is someone who has an opportunity to commit a crime and has the capacity to do so. The lack of a capable guardian is when a person is left unprotected this could be a security system like an alarm or another person who is accompanying someone. Lastly, a suitable target is someone who has what the offender wants or does not have the ability to defend themselves.
All 3 factors play a major role in the victimisation of the homeless. Living on the streets means that the homeless comes in to contact with many people who are capable of harming them and not having any support structures or security, offenders are given the opportunity to victimise them. Furthermore, homeless people are the perfect suitable targets when it comes to committing crimes against one another, because the struggle for material necessities are rife amongst them for survival they often steal each other’s belongings or assault each other for them.
This chapter will focus on the research design or methodology used in order to obtain the results. Attention will be drawn on the data approach and collection methods, sampling methods and the data analysis process.
4.2 Data approach and collection methods
The study utilises qualitative data in the form of interviews with suitable participants who reside in the urban parks of Durban. The interviews present important insights into the lives of the homeless and their outlook on crime within their environment. The importance of investigating this phenomenon is to address the issue of crime amongst the homeless, more importantly to highlight ways in which crime can be reduced in order to create a safer society. (Ospina, 2004:1) mentions that qualitative research is seeking the in depth meaning of a phenomenon by using empirical enquiry, meaning that data is gathered by understanding the participant’s experiences.
(Ospina, 2004:4) further highlights that qualitative data gives a holistic picture of a topic and makes use of inductive reasoning to give the data a chance to speak for itself. In comparison, interviews are an example of a qualitative data collection method, semi-structured interviews will be used in this study. (Jamshed, 2014:1) explains that semi-structured interviews allows the participants to express their feelings and thoughts fully in order for the researcher to get an in depth understanding. However, there are some planned open-ended questions that the respondents have to answer in order to guide the interviewer to obtain the desired results. In comparison, the respondent’s answers will be tape-recorded to allow the researcher to gather all the information and not miss any key points.
4.3 Sampling methods
In this study the researcher will make use of non-probability sampling. Unlike probability sampling that makes use of a calculation of samples and can determine the random selection of samples, non-probability sampling does not. This means that the samples of participants or respondents are not randomly selected. (Surbhi, 2016:1) states that the selection of the samples relies on the judgement of the researcher. The researcher selects participant who represents the population and study purposefully.
Under non-probability sampling there are various methods, however this study will make use of snowball sampling to choose a sampling frame. (Dragan, 2013: 161) defines snowball sampling as a technique used when a population is not detailed, for example homeless people. Furthermore, Snowball sampling allows the researcher to gather a network of participants through other participants who allows people they know to become part of the study. For example, the researcher will find a homeless person and he or she will point the researcher in the direction of another homeless individual who can give more information for the study.
The disadvantages with this sampling methods includes the fact that it makes it hard to determine the sampling error as well as make an inference about the characteristics of a population based on the samples drawn.
4.4 Data Analysis
The analysis of data is very important in qualitative research to break the data in to parts to get a better understanding. (Lawrence ; Tar, 2013: 29) mentions that analysing data consists of organising the data, breaking down the data, creating or identifying patterns, deciding what is important and what still needs to be discovered and lastly what you will tell others.
The method used to analyse data in this study is the grounded theory. This theory was created by Glaser and Strauss in 1967 and still gets used widely today. The grounded theory as explained by, (Lawrence ; Tar, 2013: 30) tries to tie a theory to empirical data which allows the theory and data to interact. It allows the researcher to move away from ordinary ways of perceiving data. There are three procedures for the grounded theory when analysing data: coding, memo writing and comparing. Coding according to (Lawrence ; Tar, 2013: 32) is the process of grouping the data into codes for it to become a theory. Coding allows the researcher to rebuild the data and find patterns. Memo writing on the other hand allows concepts of this data to form. (Lawrence ; Tar, 2013: 33) mentions that this allows you to keep a record of your analysis. Meaning that memos gives insight into what the codes are about and attaches concepts to these codes.
Lastly, comparing has to do with theoretical comparisons. This type of comparison is explained by (Lawrence ; Tar, 2013: 34) as a way of considering the data more in depth by finding the concepts, context, and consequences of how this set of data that interacts as a theory compares or differs from other theories or sets of data with the same relations. This allows the researcher to enlarge the categories of the data, groups and codes.
In this chapter the research results will be discussed however, for the purpose of this research proposal the researcher was not expected to physically conduct research, but rather give an outline of the assumed research results in order to address the research questions stated in chapter one. Moreover, the challenges of obtaining the results, the methods implication on the results and the richness of the data will be discussed.
5.2 Challenges of obtaining the results
Due to the complexity of the topic the researcher was faced with many challenges to obtain results. The homeless in Durban’s inner city is a vulnerable group due to the high crime prevalence amongst them as well as where they reside. The researcher thus faced the challenge of safety when conducting the research due to the unsafe areas in Durban where the homeless where found. Friends had to take time to accompany the researcher to these areas. Moreover, another challenge faced was due to language barriers. The researcher is English speaking and many of the respondents were Zulu and for this reason the respondents did not understand the questions asked nor did the researcher have the capability to understand the difficulties faced by the respondents. In order to overcome this barrier the researcher had to make use of an interpreter who can rephrase the questions in Zulu and provide the answers to the researcher in English.
Furthermore, in order to get the respondents to talk to the researcher and allow the researcher to ask the questions, compensation had to be made. The researcher had to supply each respondent with a beverage and snack to allow the respondents to trust and open up to the researcher. Due to the fact that the research was not funded this had to be done at the researchers own costs.
5.3 The methods implication on the results
The data collection method and sampling method also presented implications when collecting results. Qualitative data in the form of semi-structured interviews where used to gather data, but the researcher found that by using interviews challenges arose, as previously mentioned this created language barriers and the respondents did not always understand the questions or the context in which these questions were asked. In comparison, instead of making use of interviews the researcher realised that another effective way of gathering data was to use observations. Observations allowed the researcher to observe homeless individuals in their setting and could answer some of the key research questions at hand.
Moreover, snowball sampling was meant to allow the researcher to gather data through creating a network with individuals. However, this network was not available. Some respondents could not refer the researcher to other respondents, or there were difficulties in identifying individuals who would be able to contribute to the research. Furthermore, instead of making use of snowball sampling throughout the data gathering process, the researcher had to improvise and rather use convenient sampling. This allowed the researcher to use any homeless individual which was in a convenient proximity.
5.4 The richness of the data
The data collected was rich in nature. The researcher had a broad understanding of the topic and could analyse the data effectively. Interviews and observations allowed the researcher to get an in depth understanding of homeless individuals and could answer the key research questions. The data gathered in this study was empirical and holistic, which contributed to a full picture of the phenomena. In comparison, the researcher understood why these individuals had become homeless. Many were homeless due to poverty, migration and unemployment. This further led to an inference as to why crime is committed among the homeless. The researcher also noted that homeless individuals fear each other and could conclude that they are often victims of crime and that crime is evidently a notion that they deal with on a daily basis.
Furthermore, as the research process continued a deduction was made that most of the respondents lived in Durban’s inner city. The urban park off West Street had many homeless people residing there. This showed that urban parks in Durban was becoming overpopulated with the homeless due to the lack of shelters in the area. The data gathered allowed the researcher to fulfil all of the research objectives and the key research questions. A successful research study was thus conducted and the problem was fully highlighted.
Recommendations ; Conclusion
This chapter will highlight various recommended ways in which homelessness can be reduced in Durban. An explanation of what EThekwini municipality plans to do about the problem will also be focused on. Strategies to assist the homeless and prevent homelessness will be considered. Finally, a conclusion will be drawn in order to summarise the key points of this research study.
There are various plans put into place to assist and reduce homelessness. (EThekwini municipality, 2017:1) mentions that they plan to assist the homeless by using a Social Development Strategy. This means that they will supply more shelters and develop better policies to assist the homeless. They also highlight that adopting this development plan crime, drug use and begging will be reduced. Furthermore, Durban will work with non-government organisations (NGO) to help supply shelter to the homeless. (Magubane, 2017:1) states that the EThekwini municipality will create centres for the homeless and will be open seven days a week including public holidays.
Durban Beach Shelter also assists individuals who are homeless. They provide rehabilitation, school placement for children, food distribution and employment for those who are homeless. Moreover, the shelter also focuses on skills and development. This includes teaching them skills like reading and writing. According to Durban Beach Shelter, they have assisted 6.8 million homeless individuals since they have opened.
(Burt, 2006:1) states that although assisting the homeless and reducing homelessness is beneficial to society, rather there should be a more important focus on preventing this phenomena. (Burt, 2006:1) further elaborates that in order to prevent homelessness there should a targeting effort made towards those w