The shelter for the homeless at the Strandfontein Sports Ground. Picture: Phando Jikelo / African News Agency (ANA)
The shelter for the homeless at the Strandfontein Sports Ground. Picture: Phando Jikelo / African News Agency (ANA)

Cracks in City's approach to controversial homeless shelter in Strandfontein

By Odwa Mkentane, Athandile Siyo And Siphokazi Vuso Time of article published Apr 9, 2020

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Cape Town – The City’s decision to shelter about 2 000 homeless people at the Strandfontein Sports Ground has shown cracks in its leadership structure, with DA ward councillor Elton Jansen saying he did not support the decision and had not been consulted by his colleagues.

“I have said this before, and I will say it again. I was not part of this decision. I will once again raise my concerns tomorrow (today) at the operational meeting, which I attended every day since they came here,” Jansen said in a statement.

“I am not happy about this situation and the decision to bring the homeless to Strandfontein, but we are in a disaster and what I like and how I feel is not important right now." 

Jansen's comments came as the treatment of the vulnerable by Mayco member for transport Felicity Purchase came under the spotlight, with comments on social media slating her for a Facebook post she made that left some feeling she was infringing the rights of the homeless.

On Monday, Purchase posted that she would go with private security, among others, to the homeless who were “hiding out” in Fish Hoek, Clovelly, and Sun Valley.

“We are all concerned about the homeless people’s plight, and as a ward councillor, I deemed it necessary to provide details about the plans that are being implemented in this regard,” she said to backlash.

Jansen said four homeless people in Strandfontein had jumped over the fence at the sports field where they were sheltered in tents. Three were caught and arrested and one got away.

The homeless people reported that the camp was cold, wet, muddy, desolate and isolated.

In a statement earlier this week, the Strandfontein Ratepayers Association said: “We can assure the community that despite the blocking of information, consultation and involvement, this will not deter us pushing ahead. 

"We request that as a community we stay focused. We are fighting a deadly virus and need to ensure the health and safety of our families.

"Please spare a thought for the homeless who are being brought into the area against their will. Our fight and frustrations continue, and remain focused and directed purely at the City of Cape Town, not the homeless or among ourselves.”

Jonty Cogger, attorney at social justice activist group Ndifuna Ukwazi Law Centre, said the scale of the homeless shelter operation made it impossible to prevent the transmission of the Covid-19 virus, and the City’s decision to accommodate up to 300 people in a single tent showed a failure to appreciate the serious risks involved.

“The provision of one washing basin for 300 people is not sufficient for maintaining adequate hygiene standards. Furthermore, the lack of 24-hour medical assistance at the site is an indication that the City is not taking the gravity of the health risks involved in grouping vulnerable, immunodeficient or immunocompromised people together on a single site.

“The risk of on-site transmission of the Covid-19 virus at the Strandfontein shelter is heightened due to the failure of City officials to observe social distancing and hygiene protocols in their interaction and transportation of hundreds of homeless people across Cape Town on a daily basis.

“The ongoing nature of this law-enforcement operation poses a risk to every person involved in the Strandfontein shelter, including City employees, contractors and volunteer NGO workers.”

Mayco member for health Zahid Badroodien said 30 health staff had been deployed to the site.

“They will remain on site only for the initial screening. After screening, the site will be serviced by a once-a-week mobile clinic for health promotion, TB medication, ART medication, Chronic Dispensing Unit, family planning and immunisation for infants.

“The lockdown regulations require that street people be given temporary Covid-19 shelter to flatten the curve.

"The City’s Disaster Risk Management Centre has taken the lead on the set-up of the Strandfontein Covid-19 temporary shelter, and when completed, the facility was handed over to the Social Development and Early Childhood Development Department.

“It should also be noted that it is a national directive to provide temporary shelter and the necessary amenities to homeless people during Covid-19. Although there are challenges which are addressed on a daily basis, the City is committed to provide the best possible solution in the best interest of all citizens,” Badroodien said.

Cape Times

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