Homeless housed on field

Homeless people, from areas like Culemborg and Muizenberg, are screened after they were bused in to Strandfontein sports field by the City of Cape Town this week.

Mitchell’s Plain community health workers expressed relief that hundreds of homeless people, moved to the Strandfontein sports field where they will be housed for the duration of the Covid-19 lockdown, will receive the necessary health care, have access to ablution facilities and regular meals.

“Dit is hartseer om die mense en die kinders te sien,” said Tafelsig resident Samantha De-Leeuw, from Arisen Women, a local non-governmental organisation which provides home-based nursing care and which had been tasked to help screen homeless people since Sunday April 5 when they arrived at the site.

Her colleague Christalene Fortuin, from Beacon Valley, said it was good to see the homeless people get the help that they need.

“On the streets they don’t have anywhere to go. Here is a place, where they can be looked after and don’t have to worry where they will find something to eat,” she said.

About 2 000 homeless people are due to be housed at the City of Cape Town’s temporary shelter sites for the duration of the Covid-19 lockdown, at a cost of R32 million.

Arisen Women, established in 2002, is one of the many organisations receiving funding from the provincial government to deploy health care services to old, frail and disabled residents who cannot get to clinics or hospitals.

They have particularly been called upon to help screen clients at the local community health centres for Covid-19 but at the field they were also screening for tuberculosis, HIV, bedsores or other medical concerns the homeless people may have.

“There is a doctor on site and they can make use of the services when they need it. There are people here with wheelchairs. We can pick up if they have any medical needs and refer them to the necessary services,” Ms Fortuin said.

The Plainsman could not speak to the homeless people as Hassan Khan, chief executive officer of The Haven Night Shelter, said they were attending to all kinds of people – men, women, children, people with mental conditions and people who use drugs but all of them were homeless.

Mr Khan said just like Capetonians were surviving lockdown at their homes, the large marquee would be their place of safety.

Dr Zahid Badroodien, mayoral committee member for community services and health, said Culemborg has been closed temporarily. The site remains available for the housing of street people when the need arises. “We will reopen the site once Strandfontein is at capacity. We are using a central service point to ease logistics for the time being,” he said.

At about noon yesterday, Tuesday April 7, 1 100 people have been accommodated at the site with a further 280 expected during the course of the day. Dr Badroodien said the sports field’s capacity is 2 000.

He said they had committed to Strandfontein community leaders that the homeless people will no longer be on the sports field post lockdown and that following community consultation, whatever they request for the sports field, would be granted.

He said staff would be working with the homeless people on their personal development plan, and offered opportunities with various departments, whether it be public works, reintegration, going back home and developing themselves to not return to the streets.

“They would be connected with the City’s street people unit and now that they are documented, we can follow up with their progress or assist them to get into shelters,” Dr Badroodien said.

The site has strict access control as only services and service providers are allowed, and there are five different “residents” sites, as well as water stations, an ablution block, including toilets, security and medical and isolation areas.

Last week the perimeter was secured and the water connections reinstalled following the recent water contamination in Strandfontein (“Water passes quality tests”, Plainsman, March 2).

Strandfontein Residents’ and Ratepayers’ Association (SRRA), Community Police Forum (CPF) and Facility Management Committee (FMC) have met with Mayor Dan Plato to raise their concerns of the homeless people staying on the field.

They have asked to be kept informed and given access to the site to reassure residents that all is well at the temporary relocation area.

“The silence is deafening as it causes further frustration to all concerned,” read a combined statement, signed by Mario Oostendurp (SRRA), Sandy Schuter (CPF) and Huey Jacobs (FMC).

“The City of Cape Town has granted us permission for limited access onto the complex, under very strict protocol, as observers only.

“We shall keep you updated as the situation further develops,” the representatives told residents in a WhatsApp broadcast message.