The idea of forming an association was discussed in the Nyanga hostel. The discussion were given impetus by the 1981 decision by the local authority to grant as permit to a resident to convert a disused ablution facility into a dry cleaning port. Hostel dwellers successfully challenged the decision which they viewed a way of undermining hostel dwellers. The Western Cape men’s Hostels Association was formed in 1983 with the aim of looking after the welfare of hostel dwellers. The association was launched on 1 June 1985 in the Presbyterian Church in Nyanga with 1000 hostel dwellers in attendance.

Membership increased slowly overtime with initial members coming from Nyanga, Langa and Gugulethu. Other areas such as Kuilsriver, Lwandle in Somerset West, Brackenfell and Paarl were included between 1984 and 1987. The association members were exclusively for men a status that was retained until 1986 annual conference. The HDA established close working relationships with local civic organisations, trade unions and progressive political organisations. Embedded in its flag and T-shirts were anti apartheid statements such as ‘Away with Apartheid’ or ‘Unite Families, Away with Apartheid’. Other demands of the HDA were an end to the contract system and acceptance of the rights of hostel dwellers as permanent urban residents. 

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