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By Thandanani Mhlanga
About 50 people have set up home on a Green Point pavement after being evicted from a building behind Somerset Hospital.
The group sat surrounded by their belongings on a pavement in Portswood Road last night, preparing for their fourth night on the streets since being evicted in the early hours of Friday.
The group had been living in the Old City Hospital's G block until a sheriff of the court, accompanied by police, arrived and told them they had to vacate the premises immediately.
They claim the eviction came without warning.
But ward councillor JP Smith said the sheriff had a court order and was within his rights to evict them after many eviction threats sent to the evictees had gone ignored.
Fiona Alcock, a member of the evicted group, admitted that they had known they faced eviction but had expected it to happen on December 18.
She said the group had made other arrangements and had had all their belongings packed but no one had arrived to evict them on that day. Then on Friday, police came without warning and now they had nowhere to go.
Alcock, who has breast cancer and had been living at a night shelter before she heard about G block, said they should have been given more warning.
"It's very embarrassing being here on the side of the street," she said.
According to the group, they had stayed in the building free after their previous landlord's lease expired. More people came when word spread that people were living in the building for free, they said.
Most do not work and have no family to turn to.
"This is so embarrassing and demeaning. In all my 54 years I have never slept in the open," said Wendy Mani.
The group said that since being evicted on Friday, businesses near where they were living had complained. They said they were also being refused ablution facilities in the nearby V&A waterfront and at the neighbouring Protea Hotel and had resorted to using a deserted corner as a toilet.
"We have no choice... we know it's a health hazard," said Terrence Wandi.
Smith said he was aware of the group's situation and added that he had not been able to find a place for them to stay.
He said city housing, premier Helen Zille and mayor Dan Plato were aware of the situation and were trying to find a solution.
"But we must be careful that we don't set a precedent where we're taking responsibility for people who should've known (to find alternative accommodation)." The group did not qualify for emergency housing.