Cape Town - As the temperature dropped and the rain pelted down, about 500 of Cape Town’s homeless people searched the city for shelter on Tuesday night.
Sibusiso Duna, 22, who normally sleeps on the Grand Parade, sought cover in the doorway of a shop in Bo Kaap. “The owner understands,” he explained.
During the day, he comes to St George’s Cathedral in the CBD to play the piano and pay 40c for a bowl of soup or R1 for soup and three slices of bread.
According to Wilfred Solomons-Johannes, officials have distributed 42 402 blankets, 45 090 hot meals, 22 488 brunches, 767 flood kits and 332 baby packs this winter.
The St George’s Cathedral soup kitchen has been packed with hungry, cold people. The men and women sit on the floor while Duna plays Chopsticks in the church hall.
When he was at Tamboerskloof High School a music teacher taught him to play the keyboard. He left school in Grade 10 in 2009 when his mother became sick. After she died, to pay for the funeral, he sold their house.
“I wanted to play music. I like music,” he said. “When I’m playing the piano I tell myself I will never give up.”
Duna has an aunt in Khayelitsha, but chose a life on the streets. “It’s better for me. When I stay there I (end up) joining the gangsters.”
Jessica Pietersen, 30, has also chosen a life on the streets. “This is the only place I feel comfortable,” she said on Tuesday, sitting on cardboard and under a tattered blanket in her sheltered spot tucked away on Burg Street.
Pietersen, who has been living on the streets since she was 10, steers clear of the shelters. “I’m not used to staying in places. I’m used to staying outside.”
Pietersen said security guards took their money and also warned people not to give them anything.
On a nearby lamp-post a Give Responsibly poster urges people not to promote begging. The Central City Improvement District campaign was established in 2008 as an education and awareness initiative to discourage the public from giving money to homeless people.
The Haven Night Shelter, one of the Give Responsibly partner NGOs, provided beds to more than 2 000 people on Monday night.
Hassan Khan, of the shelter, said: “Money in the hands of a homeless person maintains the vulnerable on the street, increasing their alienation and condemns them to a downward spiral of living in the shadows of our community.”
Kelvin Stoltz, Pietersen’s neighbour, goes to sleep with one eye open. Once the ex-con fell asleep clothed and woken up with nothing. “Life on the streets is tough,” he said.