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‘I pray to live a drug-free life’

Simone Alicea

JASON Davids doesn’t blame anybody for the fact that he sleeps on the N1.

“My parents are not the problem. I am the problem. My addiction is bad,” Davids, 35, said.

He is addicted to heroin and began taking drugs when he was 15.

He has been living on the streets on and off for 17 years, and is among an estimated 7 000 homeless people in Cape Town.

“Each homeless person is not the same,” Davids said.

The Haven Night Shelter group of shelters is the largest in the Western Cape, with 16 sites around the province and 1 000 beds among them.

“We want (the homeless) to get away from the beggar mentality,” Haven chief executive Hassan Khan said.

“We want them to live in a dignified way.”

The city has spent about R1.8 million on assessment centres this year.

These centres help people living on the streets to find work and become reintegrated into their communities.

“Giving donations to street people directly encourages them to remain on the streets, instead of seeking assistance through the available channels to get off the streets,” said mayoral committee member for social and early childhood development Suzette Little.

Davids and his friend Wayne Branders take shelter from the rain and look for work near the station. They do whatever they can for income, oftenmanual labour.

“The first thing that needs to change is the people,” Branders, 32, said. “People judge us by the way we look.

“When we ask for help we get the weirdest responses. Security guards won’t protect us.”

Khan emphasised that the shelters were not about “maintaining homelessness on the street”, but about rehabilitation.

If they can, people pay R10 to stay at The Haven for a night, or they may work for their keep. The Haven can put them in touch with social workers and other welfare providers who can help them find employment and reunite them with their families.

“We are emotionally and socially responsible for one another,” Khan said.

“That’s how the rest of us keep going too.”

In the winter, shelters can be overwhelmed.

“It’s easy to live on the streets in the summer, but in the winter people can’t give you the time of day,” Khan said.

Davids says he’s not looking for handouts, but he hopes to save money for rehab.

On the other hand, his addiction is strong and he often relapses.

He once had a sponsored visit to a detox facility, but was kicked out when he was caught having a relationship with a woman in the programme.

“It is my prayer daily to God – to live a drug-free life and help others who are or were in my situation,” Davids said.

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