The dual processes of rapidly transforming cities and administrative decentralisation demands that local government address human mobility as a means of countering urban poverty. Despite this imperative, local authorities are often poorly equipped to address the needs of poor and transient residents. Through an examination of four South African municipalities, this article helps to identify three critical factors working against effective responses: poor data and conceptual bias; institutional ambiguities and budgeting processes; and, ironically, participatory planning. Although any one of these could serve as a basis for an article, by taking them together, we better summarise the challenges’ scope and outline areas for further research and policy intervention. The article concludes by considering these findings’ practical and scholarly implications.