Help street people make a U-turn

U-turn Service Centre field worker Pastor Dean Ramjoomia, administrator Lindley April and social worker Shanell Petersen speak to participants.

The national Covid-19 lockdown delayed the opening of the U-turn service centre to August after the City identified Mitchell’s Plain as an area of great need.

The City dedicated R1.5 million to conduct surveys in the area to determine needs, and then to set up and run the service centre, and provide drug- and alcohol rehabilitation support. The funding was dedicated up until November last year.

The U-turn service centre offers a faith- and skills-based programme designed by occupational therapists, and aimed at the rehabilitation and reintegration of people living on the streets.

U-turn strategic partnership development manager, Rowen Ravera-Bauer, said it was their responsibility to ensure the sustainability of the centre.

“Unless we can secure funding, the centre risks closing its doors in March,” she said.

“We have submitted a grants-in-aid application to the City to continue the centre, but will only have feedback on this in March.

“In the meantime, we’re appealing to the extended community to support the work and a pathway out of homelessness for the people on the streets of Mitchell’s Plain,” she said.

Ms Ravera-Bauer said six months after graduating from the programme, more than 80% of participants remain employed and sober.

Centre administrator Lindley April said they had helped 120 people, from the streets of Mitchell’s Plain, since opening .

“But due to budget constraints we’ve had to drastically cut services,” he said.

They engage with people living on the street and those at risk of ending up on the streets.

Mr April said participants attend support group meetings at the centre, which shows their commitment and willingness to want to return home.

He said they also offer services and meetings in Lentegeur and Westridge, where they had up to 30 participants but this had dropped to about 18, with lockdown level 3 restrictions being enforced.

“We look at possible candidates to go the whole journey and we invite them to become part of the Life Change programme, becoming sober and eventually offering work placement at one of our charity shops, laundry or at our first phase service centre,” he said.

The U-turn charity shop in the parking lot of Liberty Promenade Mall has also been opened.

Some of the Mitchell’s Plain participants have just completed their rehabilitation phase and now access support services at the centre.

“Our graduates – those who have put in the work and completed the work – interact with the newbies to encourage them and show them that it can be done if they do the work,” he said.

However, Mr April added, relapse was part of the process.

He said they had to build trust with participants, who had faced many disappointments and needed to be given another chance “to go through it and commit to it”.

It costs R16.50 a day to provide a hot meal or clothing to a participant. This excludes additional support, change-readiness activities and rehabilitation services.

The organisation sells R20 vouchers to the public, who can then give these to people living on the streets instead of giving them handouts.

The second phase, includes attending drug and alcohol rehabilitation programmes at a cost of about R2 900 a person, which lasts an average of four to five months.

The organisation records a 60% relapse rate for participants in the drug and alcohol rehabilitation programme.

In the final phase, on completion of drug and alcohol rehab, clients can apply to join the final Life Change programme, ensuring employment with a stipend of R3 000 a person a month, on the job training with a retail course, and weekly formal training in computer literacy, basic literacy for those who need it, life skills and ongoing relapse prevention therapy.

This phase lasts on average two-years and it costs in total (including stipend, training facilitators, and therapists) around R6 000 a person a month.

The organisation asks that Mitchell’s Plain residents “Give responsibly” to people in need on the street.

Mr April said: “Please don’t give money, as this often fuels addiction. If you’d like to assist someone, please give a U-turn voucher instead.”

These can be purchased from U-turn’s charity store at Liberty Promenade Shopping Mall.