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Johannesburg - *Paul’s mother and her boyfriend used to lock him up with the dogs at their Elspark home, near Germiston.
With nothing to eat and drink, Paul was alone with the dogs and never got to play outside. The neighbours would try to throw food into the house to help the two-year-old.
After an elderly woman in the neighbourhood alerted the local police victim empowerment centre (VEC) about the situation, he was rescued from his family home four days later.
When he was found, he was surrounded by faeces and cockroaches. His skin was pale and fragile and his buttocks were covered with sores.
“He was afraid to walk and only did so on his tiptoes,” said a VEC volunteer, who did not want to be named.
Paul has been living at the Elsburg Green Door since last month and is starting to look like a healthy toddler.
The Green Door Campaign was started by the Department of Community Safety as an extension to its victim empowerment centres.
Doreen Harding, a former police officer, had already opened her home as a place of safety for children.
“The home has been officially operating as a Green Door since February 14 and I’ve already had 15 cases. They vary from child abuse to rape and domestic violence,” said Harding.
People seeking help are able to go to the home and stay for a period of three to six hours and receive counselling.
“We listen to them and hear their story. We then refer them to the police station and they are then referred to the right person or place,” she said.
Harding was a policewoman for 23 years before retiring in 2008.
*Emily is another person who frequents Harding’s home. She has a protection order against her partner of six years.
“Every time he gets drunk he abuses me. On weekends, it’s bad,” she said.
Emily said she came to Harding for advice and had asked her partner to seek help.
“I’ll continue to come here until he changes,” she said.
The Department of Community Safety hopes to open homes in all 508 wards.
* Not their real names