City of Cape Town responds to claims of harassment of street people, saying it has made available R699,000 to provide aid to street people this winter. FILE PHOTO/ANA

Cape Town - The City of Cape Town on Tuesday said it has made available almost R700 000 to provide aid in the form of blankets, mattresses, non-perishable food and toiletries to NGOs to increase their capacity to deal with the number of street people seeking shelter and assistance during the winter months.

In a statement, mayoral committee member for safety and security, JP Smith said the City has noted the ongoing reports about the harassment of street people, particularly the issuing of fines by Law Enforcement officers and the attempts to paint the City as uncaring.

He said the City of Cape Town is one of the few administrations that has invested in the plight of street people through a host of interventions in the last decade and has made available R699 000 to provide aid. 

“The City has invested in helping all people because we care about the safety of our residents. Our efforts have seen the Social Development and Early Childhood Development Departments work closely with our Displaced Persons Unit within Law Enforcement, with the aim of offering social assistance to individuals who live on the streets and ultimately to reintegrate them with their families and communities of origin,” Smith said.

Smith added that these efforts were underpinned by the City’s Street People policy, which recognises the complexities that accompany homelessness, and attempts to address them.

The African National Congress (ANC) in the Western Cape on Monday slammed the City as uncaring, accusing it of waging a "war" on the city's homeless, saying that destitute people had been fined for offences such as obstructing pedestrians on sidewalks, thus criminalising homelessness.

"We demand that the City stops this cruel, inhuman enforcement of its by-laws immediately, as well as that it shows more compassion by making more shelters available to the homeless," the ANC said.

But Smith countered by saying that the Social Development and Early Childhood Development Department has teams of field workers who spend their days reaching out to street people, offering assistance with access to social services, including temporary shelter, Identity Documents, social grants, and temporary employment opportunities, according to the City.

Smith said: "In 2018, the department spearheaded the opening of the first safe space, which currently houses 211 street people who are all receiving support and guidance designed to ultimately help them get off the streets completely.

“The success stories are numerous, so too the public-private partnerships that have emanated from this initiative, resulting in permanent job placements for some Safe Space clients,” he said.

African News Agency (ANA)