The arrest of a vagrant as a suspect in the the runaway blaze on Table Mountain, could result in a backlash against Cape Town’s homeless, according to organisations working with them. Picture: Brendan Magaar/African News Agency(ANA)
The arrest of a vagrant as a suspect in the the runaway blaze on Table Mountain, could result in a backlash against Cape Town’s homeless, according to organisations working with them. Picture: Brendan Magaar/African News Agency(ANA)

Fears of backlash against homeless after arrest of vagrant for Cape Town fire

By Shakirah Thebus Time of article published Apr 21, 2021

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Cape Town - The arrest of a vagrant as a suspect in the the runaway blaze on Table Mountain that razed buildings and scorched acres of vegetation, could result in a backlash against Cape Town’s homeless, according to organisations working with them.

Kerry Hoffman, executive director of Souper Troopers, operating the Humanity Hub, said the incident was already being used to further drum up support against the homeless and renew calls for people sleeping on the streets and mountains to be removed.

Humanity Hub provides services to assist those living on the streets, to improve their living conditions.

“If the fires were started intentionally, whoever did so must face the full force of the law, but we must not use this to malign an entire group, especially a group of people who are sleeping rough because they have nowhere else to sleep,” said Hoffman.

“It’s well known that there are roughly four times more homeless people in Cape Town than there are shelter beds and that many homeless people don’t have a safe or welcoming home to return to.”

Hoffman said she hoped the situation would bring renewed commitment to a dignified response to homelessness.

“People live on the mountain because they have nowhere else to be; they cook on open fires because it’s the only way they can warm their food. It’s a recipe for disaster and one that needs a holistic solution.”

Community Chest spokesperson Desiré Goliath said: "Community Chest is deeply saddened by the Cape Town fires and the loss of priceless historical property, animal life and the displacement of students, and are working in partnership with disaster relief agencies to lend tangible support to collaborative relief efforts.

“That being said, we should address solutions to the ongoing scourge of homelessness, rather than using an already vulnerable community as convenient scapegoats."

Cape Argus

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