Committee for the homeless opens case against City following evictions near CPUT
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Cape Town - The Strandfontein Homeless Action Committee (Shac) says it has opened a case against the City following the confiscation of tents and structures of homeless people sleeping opposite the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in District Six on Sunday by law enforcement officers.
Shac member Carlos Mesquita said the City’s harassment of homeless people seemed to be ceaseless. He said the law enforcement officers carried out their operation “because it’s their instruction and, to top it off, it was done in the rain”.
A similar operation was also carried out in Milnerton on Friday in which homeless people sleeping next to the clinic on Swellengrebel Avenue were evicted after being served with notices from the Western Cape government on Thursday, giving them 24 hours to leave the open field.
Elim Night Shelter volunteer Toni Tresadern, who witnessed the evictions on Friday, said most were at work and arrived back to find all their goods had been thrown in a trailer.
“They broke down all the structures and confiscated the tents first. Goods were thrown on to trucks and trailers, but no tagging was done.
“They were told to go somewhere in Epping to reclaim their possessions, but none of the bags were tagged, so nobody would know whose goods were whose.
“Most of the homeless folk in Bothasig were born and raised in the area – at least 75% of the people went to school in the area,” he said.
Tresadern slammed what he said was a misconception that the City had enough shelters for all the homeless people.
“The City is talking nonsense about the fact that there are enough shelter beds in the Western Cape. That is a complete spin that sadly residents lap up, because they don’t want to see poverty on their doorsteps and just want homeless folk to go away – anywhere, just as long as they don’t have to see them,” he said.
Good Party Cape Town mayoral candidate Brett Herron said fining, warning and removing people’s possessions were acts of cruelty rather than of a compassionate solution.
Herron said a multitude of interventions were needed to reduce homelessness.
“To support and begin to reintegrate the people who are already homeless, we must shift from criminalisation to care. We need social support to assist with mental health issues, rehabilitation support to deal with those with substance addiction, and we must fund more shelters so that more people living on the street can be provided with secure, safe shelter.”
Herron said calls for homeless people to “go back to the Eastern Cape” or “back to Africa” exposed the underlying misinformation, racism and xenophobia that some political leaders wanted to ascribe to the rising challenge of poverty and homelessness.
“Cape Town’s homeless are our residents – residents who unfortunately, for a variety of reasons and challenges, cannot access secure shelter. The City of Cape Town’s own surveys show that the very vast majority of homeless people in Cape Town are Capetonians. By race, homeless people in Cape Town are 61% coloured, 25% black and 13% white,” he said.
Herron said the best way to reduce homelessness was to keep those who were in secure housing housed; and shelter, support and reintegrate wherever possible those who have become homeless.
Ndifuna Ukwazi Law Centre which is representing the parking area occupiers said the parking area was not part of restitution land and that the City had yet again used "obscure provisions" of the Streets By-law to circumvent the occupier's rights not to be evicted without a court order.
The organization said this was part of widespread law enforcement operations across the city in recent months to avoid judicial oversight in eviction matters.
"The City is using the Streets By-law with impunity to terrorise people who live on the streets into submission. It is unacceptable in a constitutional democracy that the City can be both jury and executioner when it comes to depriving people of their homes and personal belongings.
“The City's conduct is heartless and fundamentally undermines any trust that people who experience homelessness may have in the City to resolve their situation," the organisation said.
City Law Enforcement spokesperson Wayne Dyason said law enforcement officers took action in terms of the City’s by-laws.
Dyason said the City’s social development department offered assistance to help people get off the streets sustainably.
“The offer is to relocate them to one of the City’s Safe Spaces, or any night shelter. All people found on site are made this offer,” he said.