Cape Argus columnist Carlos Mesquita writes about his experience at the Strandfontein Temporary Shelter, and why he feels that the City of Cape Town doesn’t care for homeless people. Picture Courtney Africa/African News Agency(ANA)
Cape Argus columnist Carlos Mesquita writes about his experience at the Strandfontein Temporary Shelter, and why he feels that the City of Cape Town doesn’t care for homeless people. Picture Courtney Africa/African News Agency(ANA)

Why I say the City of Cape Town doesn't care for us

By Opinion Time of article published Nov 25, 2020

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by Carlos Mesquita

I ask you to join me on a journey starting on my birthday, March 27 2020 – destination unknown.

Along the way, we will discover the City of Cape Town’s gift to me and 24 other homeless people that the City is by a court order still responsible for.

Most of you will look upon us as a success story that can be attributed to Strandfontein, as the City does.

I beg to disagree. I don’t deny that a period of controlled and monitored sobriety and detoxification can yield good results, but at Strandfontein it was an enforced, unmonitored and unsupervised detoxification that could have and might have resulted in deaths.

Those that did decide to bring about change in their lives did so by themselves and with the support of other like-minded people around them and did so in order to survive Strandfontein.

The only way to do that was to ensure the City was going to be held accountable and responsible for us when they decided to close Strandfontein on May 21.

On May 21 all but 33 of the 178 got dumped outside the Culemborg site with the City claiming in the press we opted for the streets. We didn’t. We had opted to go to the Culemborg Safe Space 2 site, given to us as an option by the City and made an order of the court.

On that first Sunday, a storm hit and Community Chest offered us their premises as shelter from the storm. This had been the City’s responsibility.

For two months we lived at the Community Chest building and when we had to leave on July 31 to ensure Community Chest had the use of their building again, it was Community Chest that again accommodated those who, due to Covid-19 regulations, could not be accommodated at Culemborg.

So 31 of us, those that either had already found work or seemed likely to and those that had shown signs of entrepreneurial skills were accommodated at what we christened “our House”, “powered by Community Chest”. The arrangement was for six months.

I asked Dr Zahid Badroodien, MMC for Community Services and Health at the Inkathalo Conversations would they assist us when, on December 31, Community Chest’s commitment came to an end. He shrugged his shoulders.

On Sunday, 7 residents from our House rejoiced in going to be baptised.

On Saturday, 24 residents (17 employed) and a great number of distinguished guests will celebrate the union of two individuals who are like a son and daughter to me. They are also fellow Homeless Action Campaign (HAC) members as well as residents at “our House”. Both recovering addicts, they have never again succumbed to drugs since meeting one another. Both are employed and soon to be husband and wife. Alongside him I stand, his best man.

On December 3 we make a last-ditch attempt at asking Community Chest to again stand by us as the City won’t, failing which, our success stories and what is to become of them will become yet one more example of how this City definitely doesn’t care for us

* 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.

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

Cape Argus

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