City’s homeless have embraced services offered by Safe Space
WITH reference to Danny Oosthuizen’s opinion piece “ Danny's Diary: City flops at caring for the homeless whiles NGOs get it right” (Cape Argus, July 23) refers:
He directs a number of criticisms at the City’s Safe Space for street people, comparing it to other shelters.
The Safe Space is not a shelter, but a transitional space where street people can spend the night and be safe. So no, it will not have all of the comforts of a shelter. Furthermore, the space was established in consultation with street people.
It is by no means perfect, but we are upfront with those who use the space about what to expect.
Shelter provision is not within the City’s ambit, but we decided to pursue the Safe Space concept to reduce the number of people sleeping rough at night. We are investigating the feasibility of replicating the concept in other parts of the city.
To suggest that our efforts are a flop is a disservice to the street people who have embraced the services offered at the Safe Space - many of whom have subsequently secured work opportunities, including permanent positions, returned to their families, found their own accommodation and successfully completed the Matrix substance abuse treatment programme.
It is also a disservice to the staff, volunteers, NGOs and corporates who have given so much of themselves in service to street people - not only at the Safe Space, but across the city.
The work being done at the Safe Space is well-documented; so too is the City’s winter readiness programme in which we provide aid in the form of blankets, mattresses, non-perishable food and toiletries to NGOs to increase their capacity to deal with the number of street people seeking shelter and assistance during the winter months.
As an identified vulnerable group, mayor Dan Plato had reinstated the Homeless Agency Committee as supporting this committee is a priority for the City of Cape Town. Street people organisations and shelters are represented on this committee and add valuable input into understanding and supporting the needs of our street people.
On July 18, in partnership with the City’s 115 libraries, we launched the Give Dignity Campaign, where we are encouraging residents to donate clothing, tinned food, blankets and toiletries for distribution to the Safe Space and registered shelters across the metropole.
The campaign can also connect street people to social support programmes that the City runs, while discouraging indiscriminate handouts which keep people on the streets.
We are also investigating collaborative opportunities.
We acknowledge that there is still much hard work to do in aid
of street people, but it is disingenuous to completely disregard the positive advances that are there for all to see.
* Zahid Badroodien, Mayoral committee member for community services and health.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.