Homeless tell what life was like at shelter

Solomon Philander, councillor for Ward 79 and chairman of Wolfgat sub-council, with Carol Mentor, speak to people living on the street on the border of Town Centre yesterday Tuesday June 16. Pictured with them, in the blue jacket, is Berenice Roman.

Street people who normally live in the Town Centre had mixed reactions to the City of Cape Town’s temporary emergency shelter for the homeless in Strandfontein, which closed almost a month ago.

Many of them now live in newly-constructed, makeshift shelters on the periphery of the central business district (CBD) – along First Avenue and are up against the fence, on the outside of Third Avenue.

A 56-year old woman, who refused to be named and feared being hurt, was at the Strandfontein camp for almost a month.

She said in the beginning it was rough as they waited for mattresses and medical services.

The mother of two children, who are in foster care, was picked up by the City by bus and taken to the site, while her boyfriend was skarreling for them.

“Ons wil graag ons eie plek het,” she said.

She was glad to have a roof over her head at the site, which had huge tents, where up to 600 people were housed.

Ablution facilities and medical services were provided on site.

According to the City, they housed up to 1 475 street people at the site, which was constructed to house 2 000 mattresses – 2 000 being the facility’s maximum capacity (“Call for camp’s closure”, Plainsman, April 15).

The site was set up under the instruction of the national disaster regulation, published by the national government.

The woman was one of 17 people who were cared for at Strandfontein, who had refused further assistance into a shelter facility at the start of the national Covid-19’s Level 4 lockdown restrictions.

She said they were given two quality blankets and the mattress but this was stolen before she left the site.

Her boyfriend, 54, who was worried about her whereabouts was at his wits’ end.

He said he would not have survived at the Strandfontein camp.

“Ek moet beweeg en sorg vir haar,” he said.

He said living on the streets was not a decision taken lightly.

“Dit is nie ‘* besluit nie. Dit is nie die moeite werd om op die straat te bly nie. Ek wil die vrou af van die pad af * ê,” he said.

Sharon Solomons, who plays a mother figure role to street people living in the Town Centre, said she knows everyone who lives in the precinct.

“Daar is nie nuwe mense hier nie. Dit is die mense wat hier was. Om vir jou die waarheid te sê, since die lockdown loop ek nie so baie meer in die Centre rond nie. As ek ’* nuwe hokkie sien dan gaan kyk ek nie wie daar bly nie want ’* mens moet careful wees,” she said.

A blind young woman Muneeba Petersen, who spent a few days at the Strandfontein shelter, said she had wanted to turn her life around but there was no methadone on site.

She admitted to using heroine and unga and that she needed extra help to detox.

“Dit wassie lekker daar nie. Ons het op ’* bord geslaap. Niks wat hulle vir ons gepromise het was daar nie,” she said.

Ms Petersen said at most they were there for about three days and that she needed to get out.

At that time the council had confirmed that they were working with non-governmental organisations and the matrix clinics but could not keep those medications on site.

Mayoral committee member for community services and health, Dr Zahid Badroodien, said those living in Strandfontein were helped with access to medical care, psychosocial and rehabilitation services as well as hot meals, warm showers, a mattress and two blankets.

He said many of them were also given an additional set of donated clothing. “Our street people unit will continue to engage with the homeless people who have returned so that should they opt to choose the offers of social assistance the City will help them as needed,” he
said.

Dr Badroodien said the City had entered into a memorandum of agreement with U-Turn Ministries to provide developmental services to 250 people living on the streets of Mitchell’s Plain.

“We are hopeful that as a result of the R1.5million grant-in-aid granted to this organisation more street people will be able to access either shelters or other services or opportunities as needed to sustainably leave the streets.”

He said their work was supported by the reintegration services of the street people programme unit staff working at the coalface.

Yesterday, Tuesday June 16, Solomon Philander, councillor for Ward 79 (Beacon Valley, Eastridge, Mitchell’s Plain CBD and parts of Portland) and chairman of Wolfgat Sub-council, and members of the Mitchell’s Plain Local Network of Care for street people counted structures and people.

They started the first community-based team to respond to Covid-19 in their area on Thursday June 11 with eight non-profit organisations, who committed to prioritise people living on the street.

They counted 89 people living in shacks on the periphery and 12 people inside the Town Centre, who helped informal traders set up and guarded their wares.