Christine Lombardt, 48, moved to Bonteheuwel from Springbok in 1998, got married and then moved to Lentegeur to live with her in-laws.
More than a decade ago, she was known as Kauthar Hendricks and worked as a deli assistant at Shoprite Town Centre before living on the streets for more than two years.
She now manages the U-turn laundry and distribution centre, where all donated goods get sent, and has been deployed to help to supervise and set up the seventh U-turn charity shop, at Liberty Promenade Mall.
U-turn is a registered Christian non-government organisation, offering skills-based programmes designed by occupational therapists, with long-term results for rehabilitation and reintegration.
The phased programme starts with basic needs relief, like food and clothing; to drug and alcohol rehabilitation support; which culminates in a work-based learnership that lasts on average 19-months, called the “Life Change” programme, which nurtures an individual’s personal and vocational skills.
The store has been open since December and Ms Lombardt has been managing and mentoring four U-turn champions, who also lived on the streets and are in the process of turning their lives around.
“I remind myself and them (her colleagues) about where I was and what I did to overcome my addiction and to where I am today,” she said.
Ms Lombardt – Kauthar Hendricks at the time – started living on the streets shortly after becoming addicted to drugs alongside her husband.
“I was lonely, away from my family. I was depressed. No support and I became less productive at work,” she said.
While employed she was able to support her tik addiction for a short while before becoming homeless.
She had entered various drug rehabilitation programmes.
She was at a shelter in Muizenberg when she first entered the U-turn service programme but walked out, back to the streets two days later.
Via the U-turn, in March 2012 she completed a rehabilitation programme at Living Hope Rehabilitation Centre and was assigned an occupational therapist, who gave her direction and helped her make better choices.
Her son, 9, and her daughter, 2, at the time, were at Vision Children’s Home.
Ms Lombardt said the occupational therapist gave her lots of support, strengthened her and taught her a lot.
“I learned how to manage my money, my emotions, dealing with stressful situations and upskilled to work in retail, completed computer classes and I was trained to manage people,” she said.
Before graduating 10 months later she was able to cover the rent of a flat in Steenberg.
She used her savings, collected while earning a stipend in the U-turn skills training programme, to cover the deposit.
“It was with the tremendous support and encouragement from U-turn that I was able to stay the course and reclaim my children,” she said.
Ms Lombardt also looked after her mother-in-law, who died.
“It was a tough journey which I overcame and I would not be where I am today without the cell prayer group, counselling, training and people I met along the way to strengthen my resolve and stay clean,” she said.
Ms Lombardt said she had learned to invest in herself and that the programme had invested in her.
“They had gained and maintained my trust,” she said.
Ms Lombardt said she loves her job.
She has one more module to complete her recovery assistant training.
“I like to help people and give the emotional support I received, when I needed it,” she said.
U-turn strategic partnership development manager, Rowen Ravera-Bauer, said six months after graduating from the programme, more than 80% of participants remain employed and sober.
Ms Lombardt has helped set up about five of the NGO’s charity shops.
“I get called in to help open the store and in between I work at U-turn’s laundry despatch,” she said.
The organisation sells R20 vouchers to the public, who can then give these to people living on the streets instead of giving them handouts.
A voucher could also direct people living on the street to a service centre, for food or clothing, in Eastridge.
They also offer assistance in various locations across Mitchell’s Plain, wherever clients may want to change and access additional support, change-readiness activities and rehabilitation services.
Occupational therapist Joanne De Goede, and head of rehabilitation for U-turn, said in the second phase, in particular, it is not easy for an individual to return home.
“Clients have to be patient with themselves and their families have to be patient with them, to allow and trust the process to unfold,” she said.
Ms De Goede said the programme is focused on the client and investing in the person to improve him or herself.
She said as a team, they were able to support, encourage and motivate clients to stay the course and be integrated into society.
“They are not on the programme to perfection. This is a journey of change. Mistakes will be made. Support is so vital and it means a lot to the clients that we serve,” she said.
“It is about work being a meaningful activity, in a dynamic environment, which is client-centred and goal-focused.
“We set appropriate challenges to help them achieve self confidence, self-esteem, build resilience and dignity,” she said.