First things first: a huge thank- you to the people of Cape Town, the City, NGOs and others who made Mandela Day such a great occasion.
We truly felt loved. We even had people at The Space making this day special for those living there. Talking of The Space: there have been many complaints about the facilities there.
The Space is not a shelter and should not be compared to a shelter. It is the first of its kind in our city.
The idea was to create a safer space for people who prefer to be outdoors, whereby they can be safe at night and have a place to wash and keep their belongings safe. It’s for those who do not like living in shelters.
In all fairness, one must take into account that as time goes on, things will change and at the moment it is a trial. This is what we asked for. A space.
Some people have this idea that it is indoors. Nope. Security here is tight and people have daily access to field workers.
What I love is the fact that so many institutions came together and gave input. Streamlined service. Before they would never interact and work together as one.
To make this work, the people of Cape Town should make The Space their project too. Donations of food, skills, etc are needed. Come to brighten up the walls. Donate some off-cut fake lawn. The Space belongs to all.
Let’s make this the biggest community project the city has ever seen. Come to see for yourself. And give input. Share your ideas.
For the last few months, I noticed that aggressive begging is on the rise. On Sunday a young woman asks me for food. I had none and got slapped on the head. Imagine that.
Worst of all, she is not even homeless. She comes to town from the Plain every day. Scatter and then go back home.
I have also noticed of late how much verbal abuse some officers must endure. And how professionally some handle the situation.
Talking about professional: on Sunday night at Greenmarket Square, a homeless guy had a severe asthma attack.
The CCID officers were there in no time. An ambulance was called and the man taken to a hospital. During the time we had to wait, the officer kept reassuring the guy that it’s going to be okay. Officer211, you rock!
Two years ago they were public enemy number one. Today we have a more amicable relationship. That “human touch”.
The solution was easy. We started to talk. Acknowledge one another. The human behind the uniform. The human under the plastic bag.
You see, in my world, we are like shells washed out onto a beach. All sorts of people. Damaged, lonely and lost.
Then there are those who became lone wolves. Gypsies. Nomads. And by the grace of God, the sun shines on all of us
* Danny Oosthuizen is the #TheDignityProject ambassador. In his weekly daily column for the Cape Argus, he tackles the struggles homeless people face. Connect with Danny on Facebook and on Twitter @masekind3213 or via email: [email protected]
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.