Homeless people at the Strandfontein shout at law enforcement officers. Some of them are frustrated being in a lockdown area and claim they are forced to be there and want to leave. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)
Homeless people at the Strandfontein shout at law enforcement officers. Some of them are frustrated being in a lockdown area and claim they are forced to be there and want to leave. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

Strandfontein shelter costing City R32m per month but calls still mount for closure

By Marvin Charles Time of article published Apr 14, 2020

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Cape Town - Calls to close the Strandfontein temporary shelter for the homeless are growing amid the cramped conditions inside, little protection from inclement weather and several serious incidents of crime since the facility was erected by the City of Cape Town.

Mayor Dan Plato said the site at the Strandfontein sports field was erected under instruction of the National Disaster Regulations published by national government.

“We have had to act quickly in terms of these regulations and during this unprecedented time we have had to adapt our plans to keep up with the requirements expected of municipalities.”

Plato said the City identified a range of possible sites, and the Strandfontein sports complex enabled them to move quickly as it had a large perimeter fence, existing infrastructure with water and electricity, and was big enough to accommodate 2000 homeless people on one site, making the delivery of services for the homeless far more efficient.

Chaos ensued at the site about a week ago when about 1000 homeless clashed with law enforcement officers and three people were arrested.

And on Thursday allegations surfaced of homeless people being forced to stay at the site. On Friday a 36-year-old man was arrested in connection with the rape of an 18-year-old woman.

He is expected to appear in the Mitchells Plain Magistrate's Court today.

The area has been described as resembling a concentration camp, limiting the movements of those inside. Media has also been barred from entering by law enforcement personnel around the field.

A number of organisations have voiced their concerns at the City’s site.

Executive director of Development Action Group (DAG) Adi Kumar said: “We are deeply worried about the settlement arrangements, management and co-ordination of efforts to render services to homeless persons relocated to Strandfontein.

"The relocation effort appears to have been implemented in the absence of consolidated intergovernmental and sectoral co-ordination - an element which is key to effective emergency response and disaster management efforts. The City of Cape Town, it appears, completely underestimated the extent of services that would need to be delivered and consequently failed to plan adequately and respond efficiently to the needs of the homeless.”

Housing law group Ndifuna Ukwazi attorney Jonty Cogger, in an open letter addressed to the City, said: “The City’s decision to accommodate up to 300 people together in one tent fails to appreciate the serious risks involved. Adequate social distancing in the tents has not been observed and enforced by City officials.”

Quintin Griffith, vice-chairperson of the Strandfontein Ratepayers and Residents Association, said: “Our stance on this issue is the safety and security of the homeless. The ratepayers have adopted an apolitical stance on this matter and we appreciate any help We want the homeless to be removed we don't want the area to become another Blikkiesdorp.”

ANC chief whip in the City Thandi Makasi said: “The site must also be closed down immediately.

"No human being should be forced to live under these despicable conditions. Instead of using some of the many facilities at its disposal, such as community halls or unused buildings, the City lumped men, women and children together. This was done without the community of Strandfontein being consulted.”

The SA Human Rights Commission has also stepped in and will be meeting the City today to discuss the issue.

Mayco member for safety and security JP Smith said: “This story has run its course and it’s irresponsible for some political parties to use this. Part of our goal is that we get as many homeless people off the streets and our plan is for them to be eventually reintegrated into communities. The Strandfontein site alone is costing the City around R32 million per month and it includes food, medical and ablution facilities.”

On Sunday, the City delivered 2 000 mattresses to the homeless being accommodated at the temporary camp. Smith said the city had depended on a humanitarian relief agency for the mattresses but they could not deliver. The City then used its emergency procurement system through Disaster Management to procure the mattresses.

@MarvinCharles17

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Cape Argus

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