LOOK: Cape Town's homeless say 'the streets are safer'

By Norman Cloete Time of article published Jul 6, 2019

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Cape Town - Fear of rape and losing their meagre possessions are among the reasons some of the city’s homeless people say they sleep on the streets instead of in a shelter.

Weekend Argus spoke to some about the fines they’ve been issued by the City of Cape Town and life on the cold, often brutal streets.

“We are a community We look out for one another,” said one woman whose name is Caryn. She and her partner, Rameez Kemp, sell peanuts and mealies at the entrance to the Company’s Garden in the CBD.

Kemp is from Mitchells Plain, but has been homeless for two years and sleeps in the Garden. The well-spoken 32-year-old said his partner was issued with a R500 fine for dumping. This was for their makeshift home.

“They (CCID officials) took down the name of the street and gave us the fine,” said Kemp. He matriculated in Joburg, and worked in warehouse logistics before he got addicted to tik.

“I was earning R40 000 a month. These days we’re lucky if we make R30 a day for food. Kemp and his partner sleep on the streets. They say the shelters are always full. They go to Somerset Hospital for healthcare.

“It was an awful experience for us. My girlfriend fell and broke her wrist. We arrived at night and she was only seen to the next morning. I was recently stabbed and left for dead. After receiving treatment at the hospital they told me to get up, because they needed the bed.”

Stephen Snyman, 41, has been homeless for the past six months. He was released from prison after serving a 14-year sentence. He sleeps in the Gardens. Snyman makes a living by retrieving old shoes from refuse bins and repairing them.

“I try to sell my shoes, but the CCID officials always confiscate my things. They gave me a R200 fine and took the shoes. I went to the police and they helped me get my things back.

Snyman said he has one kidney and attends Somerset Hospital for medical care. “I am happy with their service,” he said.

Snyman’s “business partner” is 30-year-old Yorick Adams. He’s been homeless for seven years. 

“Stephen and I work and live together. We both sleep in the Gardens. We are always harassed by CCID officials. Now they want to give us fines. We don’t have homes and we don’t have money ”

Adams said he nearly died of TB recently. For him braving the cold nights in the Garden is safer than sleeping at the shelters. He goes to Somerset Hospital every second day.

Mark Morgan claimed he was issued with two fines: one for R800 and another for R500. Morgan was walking in the CBD with his dog, Rinkie. He has been homeless for seven years and sleeps in Bo-Kaap. 

“We get treated very badly. I really don’t know where this idea of giving us fines comes from.

“I don’t have an ID book, they took all my things when they fined me for loitering,” said Morgan. But Rinkie appeared in good health, sporting a red harness. “She sleeps with us. She’s our baby,” said Morgan, patting her.

A woman, who spoke to Weekend Argus on condition of anonymity, also criticised the city for issuing fines to the homeless. “We don’t have money How will we pay these fines?”

She’s been homeless for nine years and was handed a R500 fine for sleeping on the pavement.“They asked me for my address. I told them I don’t have one. I threw away the fine.” Her ID and belongings were confiscated, allegedly by CCID officials. She also has TB and receives treatment from Somerset Hospital.

Nana Smit is a 26-year-old who has been homeless for the past year. “These fines are unnecessary. It’s winter and we are already struggling Not many people visit the Gardens these days and the tourists have been warned not to give us money. They say we use the money for drugs, but I don’t,” said Smit.

He will never sleep at the shelters because they are not safe, he said. “There is lots of sexual abuse. The streets are safer for me.” Smit attends the TB and HIV clinic near the Waterfront when he needs medical care. “The treatment I receive at the hospital is good. They treat me like a person.”

Justin Swarts has been homeless for nine years. He claimed to have received two fines of R500 each. “I just threw the fines in the bin.” He suffers from TB and is on medication.

Weekend Argus

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