A homeless man washes himself on a field in District Six. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)
A homeless man washes himself on a field in District Six. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

Cape's homeless to get safe spaces by March 2018

By Yolisa Tswanya Time of article published Dec 27, 2017

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Cape Town - In March next year, the City’s promise of having safe spaces for homeless people is set to come to fruition. 

Earlier this year, Mayco member for safety and security, JP Smith, said they planned to create open-air, partially enclosed “safe spaces” to address both the shortage of beds at shelters and the restrictive rules at such places.

He said a large number of homeless people refused to go to shelters and that the safer spaces, which are to be opened between March and April next year, would have a more accommodating environment.

Smith added that the homeless would have access to showers and lockers, while social workers and NGOs would provide a range of services.

He said they had gone through the land use and planning and public participation processes, to see if there were objections.

While some people make their way to work, this homeless man sleeps opposite the Castle in Cape Town. Picture: Courtney Africa/African News Agency (ANA)

“We struggled to get everybody on board and I have even gone to the ratepayers’ association and spoke to them to get them on board, and had public meetings.

“We are also getting ready to deploy prefabricated structures to these areas. We will have law enforcement officers on the scene to make sure it is safe. We will also have the health department coming around to render services.”

Smith said the space will function in a similar way to a shelter and homeless people could spend the night and leave in the morning.

“I wanted it to be ready for the festive season, but this time is the lowest usage and winter is where they use shelters. It is harder to make people avail themselves in summer,” he added.

Management of the plan was critical.

Owen Mgaji, 25, a homeless man who stays among the bushes near the M5, takes refuge under a bridge and tries to keep warm. Picture: Jeffrey Abrahams/African News Agency (ANA)

“We have to get it right; if we give our critics enough ground and ammunition, they will scuttle our idea.”

Secretary of the Greater Cape Town Civic Alliance, Philip Bam, said the safe spaces should be a start: “Any opportunity like this is welcome and to give them space cannot be the end of it. It must be a halfway house of sorts where they end up being reunited with their families.”

Bam said he was aware that a few NGOs had shown interest in providing services that would be beneficial to the homeless.

“Unless there are some services provided to get them back to their homes, then it’s just a ploy to keep them out of the sight of tourists... there should be counselling services, as a lot of them somehow lost their livelihoods.

“The main thing must be for people to get back to their families and communities, and to be reintegrated into the economy,” Bam added.

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