Strandfontein street people shelter debate

Strandfontein residents will this evening participate in a virtual meeting to discuss the opening of a night shelter next week.

Elton Jansen, Strandfontein councillor and chairman of Sub-council 23, will facilitate a Zoom meeting with residents, ratepayers and The Haven Night Shelter’s chief executive officer, Hassan Khan, today, Wednesday July 28 at about 7pm.

This would be Mitchell’s Plain’s first night shelter, which can accommodate up to 100 people and support them with physical care, social welfare and help them reunite with their families.

The Haven Night Shelter will be offering these services at ID Morkel Calvynist Protestant Church (CPC) Camp Site, in Recreation Road in Strandfontein.

ID Morkel Calvynist Protestant Church (CPC) camp site, in Recreation Road in Strandfontein.

Last week Strandfontein Ratepayers and Residents’ Association sent out messages, saying it fears the shelter would be a “carbon copy” of the City of Cape Town’s temporary Strandfontein homeless shelter last year.

Association chairman, Mario Oostendurp, said it was done without consultation and that it was forced upon the community.

He said they were dissatisfied and objected to the relocation of street people to the Strandfontein site.

“It seems the City is once again disrespecting our existence as a community, homeowners and ratepayers.

“In principle, a good initiative and we as a community will support any projects and initiatives where the less fortunate and the homeless are assisted,” he said.

Mr Oostendurp said last year no local homeless people or those living in the surrounding informal settlements were helped.

He said there were concerns within the community that the intake may expand to larger numbers and the occupation period be extended.

“The previous homeless camp initiative was not transparent, nor truthful in its dealings with the community, organisations, the media and the general public,” said Mr Oostendurp.

The church is on a month-to-month lease agreement with the City of Cape Town, who approved The Haven’s application for additional resource support, including blankets, mattresses, non-perishable food items and toiletries.

Mr Khan told the Plainsman that they required more bed space and needed to serve the greater Mitchell’s Plain area, including the Town Centre.

He said as a non-governmental organisation they assisted soup kitchens with any excess foodstuffs in and around Mitchell’s Plain.

Mr Khan said it is a pilot and will test the sustainability of having a permanent shelter at the site.

He said anyone can refer a homeless person to the shelter but that “self-referral” was best and that they would have programmes informing the community about their services. “We provide a supportive network to ensure that no one is forced to live on the streets to survive,” he said.

He said early intervention was key as the longer a person stayed on the streets the harder it would be to return home.

Mr Khan said often former ratepayers become homeless and that they would like to help them get back on their feet.

“I am willing to engage residents and ratepayers, and anyone who needs to better understand what we do and how we can help people living on the streets,” he said.

Dr Zahid Badroodien, mayoral committee member for community services and health, refuted that the shelter would be a rehash of last year. “It is disappointing that efforts to support and shelter vulnerable individuals who sleep rough on the streets are being obstructed,” he said.

He said they supported The Haven Night Shelter as part of their winter readiness programme, as the demand for shelter space increased during winter.

He said in addition Expanded Public Works Programme workers would assist with cleaning and cooking at shelters.

“No funding is disbursed,” he said.

“The Haven is an independent organisation, supporting the City and doing very good work in the accommodation and rehabilitation of persons living on the street,” said Dr Badroodien.

According to the City’s last enumeration in 2018, the City found 368 people living on the street in the greater Mitchell’s Plain area and surrounds.