Carlos Mesquita writes that a day after World Homeless Day and our own Homeless Action Week saw an historic meeting between the homeless and their service providers to finalise The Homeless Action Coalition. Photographer: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)
Carlos Mesquita writes that a day after World Homeless Day and our own Homeless Action Week saw an historic meeting between the homeless and their service providers to finalise The Homeless Action Coalition. Photographer: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)

Hope for the homeless of Cape Town

By Carlos Mesquita Time of article published Oct 13, 2021

Share this article:

A day after World Homeless Day and our own Homeless Action Week saw an historic meeting between the homeless and their service providers to finalise The Homeless Action Coalition.

It also saw the end to a saga I reported on just over a month ago about my being sidelined from a project that would have seen the chronic homeless people in Van Riebeeck Park, De Waal Park, Hout and Buitenkant off the street and into accommodation.

By March, I had buy-in from these guys to go into the Robbie Nurock building which I was negotiating with the City to use for accommodation and other initiatives.

On Sunday, I received a call from the owner of the security company to ensure the safety of those visiting the park and thus also: remove the homeless.

The guys at Van Riebeeck Park would only leave the park and go into accommodation at Our House, the Rehoming Collective's housing option, and he enquired about the possibility.

Law enforcement was to do a removal on Monday between 5am and 7am.

How does one man go from being totally obnoxious and rude during our first two encounters to the concerned law enforcement whistle-blower wanting to help accommodate the homeless and give some of them jobs?

For the sake of those on the mountain, Lance Fish and I met with him.

He called two members of the community to whom I sent details; soon we had agreed to take in the guys on condition that the community contribute to the cost of accommodating them, and that it would be required for at least six months to ensure we are able to provide the necessary programmes and opportunities that would address their many personal challenges.

Law enforcement arrived and a call was put through to displaced people unit head, Wayne Aldridge who agreed to wait. We started moving the guys off the mountain and into Our House and eventually Rainbow House.

One resident was sent to hospital and one couple whom I know to be criminal rather than homeless and would’ve been disruptive in the house, were accommodated elsewhere. This collaborative intervention showed me that it is possible to solve these situations if there is the will to do so.

The City, who after approving amendments to by-laws that negatively impact on the homeless, said that the amendments were “good for homeless people as it will force the City to first offer alternatives” were again nowhere to be seen with any alternatives.

I have had calls from journalists asking questions about how we went about working with the City to solve what is possibly the longest occupation by homeless individuals in Cape Town.

• The City has had NOTHING to do with this.

• They have also not come to the party in helping with the costs of accommodating, feeding and providing services and jobs to these individuals and our organisation.

• When we asked for help to save Rainbow House from closure at the end of September their answer was they already fund services in the area. Our House is the only service provider offering accommodation in the area and we remain unfunded so where are these other services they fund?

• The security company on behalf of some residents has paid towards a month’s costs for each of these individuals. Representatives from the community visited the house on Sunday and offered support.

The City's stance is that they are able to provide dignified alternative shelter for homeless people. The facts show that they do not have sufficient bed spaces to do this.

And for the first time the accommodation the City offers as an alternative, was addressed by a judge in the case: C.O.C.T vs the homeless from Sydney Road Woodstock.

Issued on Thursday last week, it states that the City has not done enough since 1991 to ensure that the accommodation they offer as an alternative to living on the streets, is a better option for those living on the streets of Cape Town, and so ordered all possessions returned and gave permission for the homeless to return to Sydney Road.

* Carlos Mesquita and a handful of others formed HAC (the Homeless Action Committee) that lobbies for the rights of the homeless. He also manages Our House in Oranjezicht, which is powered by the Community Chest. He can be reached at [email protected]

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Cape Argus

Do you have something on your mind; or want to comment on the big stories of the day? We would love to hear from you. Please send your letters to [email protected]

All letters must have your proper name and a valid email address to be considered for publication

Share this article: