Spotlight on Pretoria’s homeless

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INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS

A woman sits next to her sleeping child at the Number 2 Struben Street shelter for homeless people. The City of Tshwane wants the people to vacate the building to make way for renovations. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi

Since the sudden announcement that Number 2 Struben Street, a homeless shelter, will be closed for renovations, the spotlight has fallen on housing options for the city’s homeless population.

The Struben Street shelter is the only one run by the municipality for the city’s estimated 5 000 homeless people.

Now that the more than 600 people living in the shelter have been forced to look for alternative accommodation, questions are being asked as to where they can go.

Despite the City of Tshwane adopting a policy last year aimed at opening a homeless shelter in each of the city’s seven regions, it has yet to be implemented.

Stephan de Beer, who has been involved with homeless people for more than 20 years, knows of all the housing options (and possible future options) available to those who have nowhere to go.

He is also chairman of the Tshwane Housing Forum.

He said the issue of homelessness was complex because the profile of homeless people had changed drastically since the 1990s.

A simple soup kitchen providing a daily meal is not enough to change the state of homelessness in the city.

De Beer says a more sustainable low-cost housing option is needed as a long-term solution.

“A shelter such as Number 2 Struben Street is not designed for 650 people.

“There are also not enough overnight shelters and even if there were enough, it is not meant to be a long-term home for the homeless,” De Beer said.

The Tshwane Leadership Foundation’s Yeast City Housing offers decent, affordable social housing in various areas of the city.

With the number of people living in the city rising daily, the number of homeless people is also growing – and they have different needs.

A mother with two children, who left her abusive husband, has different needs from a drug addict or someone with a mental illness.

The Tshwane Leadership Foundation has several projects catering for various types of homeless people.

Potter’s House on Burger’s Park Lane is a transitional home for women with children.

More than 20 women with children are accommodated for between three and six months, during which they develop life goals and vocational skills so they can gain independence.

Two women staying at Potter’s House recently left abusive relationships with nowhere to go.

Belinda, 22, who did not want her full name mentioned, has been living at the home for three months with her 9-month-old son.

She is from the North West but could not stand the violent abuse she was subjected to.

“I am hoping to get a job because I dropped out of college. I want to be able to pay for my studies on my own,” she said.

Sadly, De Beer said the Salvation Army, which aided the homeless, closed its doors in Pretoria West.

Pen, a faith-based organisation working to improve lives of people in the city centre, has three campuses offering support to the homeless.

On the corner of Bosman and Madiba (formerly Vermeulen) streets, homeless people can enjoy a shower every morning.

They are also given tea and have access to lockers where they can store their belongings.

They can also do their laundry.

Some of the homeless act as security on the premises every night.

In Sunnyside, the Pen campus gives the homeless access to showers, lockers and laundry services.

Caregivers also assist the homeless in applying for IDs and during visits to clinics.

At Pen, the homeless are known by name.

“Every single homeless person is someone with a name and dignity. They are not just numbers and we get to know them,” said Katleho Ncaphe.

Near Pretoria Zoo, there is a place housing mentally ill homeless people and the terminally ill with nowhere to go.

The Rivoningo Care Centre and Gilead Mental Health Unit are run by the Tshwane Leadership Foundation.

Mentally ill people who have been discharged from hospitals and have nowhere to go can knock on Gilead’s door.

The home can accommodate 20 people suffering from psycho-social disabilities such as schizophrenia, depression and bipolar disorder.

“Most of our people are referred to us from Weskoppies,” said the home’s Marlies Dauber.

She said homes like Gilead were scarce in the city, but the department of health was planning to open two in Eersterus and Mabopane.

Before being admitted to Gilead, the patient must be stable and willing to move on with their lives.

“The gate here is always open. This is not a locked-up place and the people here have to start taking responsibility for their actions,” said Dauber.

When the patients are ready to be independent, they are moved to flats on the property where they live while working.

Next door to Gilead is Rivoningo Care Centre where terminally ill homeless people are cared for.

Ten of the 20 beds are dedicated to patients who are sick and have nowhere to go.

The other 10 are for mentally ill elderly people over the age of 60.

There is a waiting list for both care centres but Dauber says they have agreed to house suitable homeless people from Number 2 Struben Street if they fit the profile of patients they care for.

So far, they have agreed to take in one person from the shelter.

Other people who are not terminally or mentally ill will be referred to other homes.

lali.vanzuydam@inl.co.za

Twitter: @LalivZ

Pretoria News


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