Cape Town-130123-A community of homeless people have been occupying the land adjacent to Trafelgar High School and Mill Street-Reporter-Neo-Photographer-Tracey Adams

Cape Town -

While the provincial Department of Human Settlements is deciding what to do with the land next to Trafalgar High School in Zonnebloem, a group of homeless people have set up shacks on the site.

Bruce Oom, spokesman for Human Settlements MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela, said on Thursday that part of the property was being used by the provincial Education Department for the school while the remainder of the land fell under human settlements.

“We are still looking for the best options for the use of that land,” he said.

Meanwhile, homeless people have set up shelters there.

Marius Smith, 32, is one of them. Originally from Graaff-Reinett, Smith said he came to Cape Town where he found a job as a taxi conductor.

But then he decided to leave as he was earning too little to support himself and his living conditions were “terrible”.

“I worked in the taxi business for eight years and used to earn between R100 and R150 a day. But the boss’s son used to hit us and one day when it happened again to a friend of mine I decided to leave.”

Smith worked on the Vredehoek to Cape Town CBD route and would often see the homeless people he now lives with in Zonnebloem.

“I knew them, sometimes I saw them in town. So when I came here, they already knew me.”

There are several groups of homeless people in the Zonnebloem area and Smith said his group consisted of about eight adults.

When the Cape Argus visited about six people were putting paper into black plastic bags which they would sell to recycling businesses.

Fikile Mzilane, 48, said he had been living on the streets for nearly 30 years. He stopped going to school at 15 when he became involved in the 1976 school protests while living in Gugulethu.

“After that I started stealing and ended up in jail for 14 years. But my mom died a year after I was released. My older brother got to keep the house. And when I couldn’t get a job, I started living on the streets.”

Mzilane said besides the recycling, he did odd jobs and on Sundays he sold newspapers at a streetlight in the CBD.

Larochelle Naidoo, a field worker for Oasis – an NGO that works with homeless people – said she had been working with this group for the past six months.

Unemployment was the main reason they ended up on the streets.

Naidoo she tried to help them find jobs and to apply for IDs so that they could make money for themselves as they did not want to stay in the formal shelters.

Trafalgar High School principal Nadeem Hendricks said he did not have a problem with the homeless people next to his school as long as they did not bother the pupils.

Brett Herron, Mayco member for transport, roads and stormwater, and Ward 57 councillor (which includes Zonnebloem), said he had had complaints about homeless people setting up shelters on the site.

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Cape Argus