Civics wait to meet with City about shelter

Jeneca Reuters, Margie Brown, Nikita Williams, and Donna du Plessis, lived on the streets of Cape Town

The City of Cape Town has not yet confirmed a meeting with Strandfontein civic groups regarding the dismantling of their temporary shelter for street people at the Strandfontein sports field.

Strandfontein Ratepayers’ Association (SRA) and the Strandfontein Social and Economic Development Forum (SSEDF) lawyer Vernon Seymour sent a follow-up letter to the City on Monday May 11 regarding a request for a round table discussion.

The request followed the SRA and SSEDF’s urgent application to the Cape High Court to have the site closed.

On Thursday April 30 Cape High Court Judge Taswell Papier presided over the matter and had wanted input from the homeless people as respondents in the application.

At about the same time, the City closed the site (“Homeless eye court date with City”, Plainsman, May 6).

According to the latest letter the residents of Strandfontein and Pelican Heights are concerned about the number Covid-19 infections increasing and what impact this would have on their health.

“(Our) client has also become aware that some homeless people are being moved out of the shelter and dropped off in the streets of Cape Town.

“A number of those people have simply walked out of the shelter and approached people in Strandfontein for assistance, because your client has apparently abandoned the project. They would like your client to address these matters in a round table,” read the letter.

Yesterday, Tuesday May 12, Dr Zahid Badroodien, the City’s mayoral committee member for community services and health, confirmed that there were 575 street people still on site.

According to a City media statement, 1 858 people were screened for Covid-19; 66 tested and isolated; and that all returned tests were negative.

He said the shelter had provided the homeless with opportunities that would not have been possible without the establishment of this temporary accommodation, including 1 352 people being given chronic and clinical treatment for conditions like tuberculosis, HIV, diabetes, hypertension and epilepsy; and that more than 120 people were re-integrated with their families.

“Most importantly, as has been the primary focus of the temporary shelter, we were able to screen all persons entering the site for Covid-19 and included additional screening for tuberculosis,” he said.

Dr Badroodien also said they had not yet scheduled a meeting with the ratepayers’ association as “we have not yet received a request for a meeting and therefore no meeting has been scheduled,” he said.

Mayor Dan Plato told the Plainsman that the City was finalising the closure of the site and the accommodation needs of the people on site, who had requested ongoing assistance.

They have adopted a three-pronged approach to accommodating street people – of the people remaining on site, 356 have indicated that they would prefer remaining in a safe space, instead of returning to the streets; extending existing shelters by creating additional bed spaces; and the long-term development of safe spaces across the city identified in communities.

The mayoral committee has also given the go-ahead for the procurement of prefabricated structures to be placed on vacant City land next to existing shelters where this is a viable option.

Mr Plato said the benefit of this was instead of having temporary pop-up shelters, the beds would remain available even after the Covid-19 pandemic for homeless people to access at their convenience.