A homeless person sifts through rubbish in the hope of finding something to eat. The number of homeless people is increasing as the recession hits. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)
A homeless person sifts through rubbish in the hope of finding something to eat. The number of homeless people is increasing as the recession hits. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

NGOs, charities battle to cope with rise in destitute living on Cape Town streets

By Mwangi Githathu Time of article published Mar 11, 2020

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Cape Town - As the recession bites, the number of homeless people flocking to the city centre and well-off suburbs is increasing, with some charities and NGOs struggling to keep up with the demand for their services.

Rowen Ravera, a strategic partnership development manager at Cape Town-based charity and integration centre U-Turn, said: “The number of homeless people has been steadily increasing over the past four years. We estimate there has been a 30% increase in homelessness, and the situation is exacerbated by the recession.”

U-turn chief operating officer Jonathan Hopkins said: “We keep statistics of everyone who receives services from U-turn. The first time they access a service we conduct a baseline survey, and we log each time they attend. Last year, there were over 800 people who came to the U-turn drop-in centre. These numbers have been fairly stable in the past year.”

Jack Mahoney, public affairs co-ordinator for The Ark City of Refuge, said: “People come and go, but we have capacity for 1000 people. Though currently we have 1020. In the past year we have seen an increase from 800 people at our shelter.”

Pat Eddy, manager of the Cape Town Central City Improvement District (CCID) social development department, said: “According to the City statistics from the social development and early childhood development department, there are more than 700 homeless people in the CBD.”

Eddy said: “There are 247 bed spaces in shelters in the CBD and the surrounding areas: 72 at Youth Solutions Africa; 80 at The Haven (District Six) and 95 at The Haven (Napier Street). There are also 230 beds at the City of Cape Town’s overnight Safe Space facility at Culemborg Bridge on the Foreshore.

“If you include Culemborg, the amount of bed space increases to 477,” Eddy said.

“These bed spaces are consistently full,” Eddy pointed out.

The City’s last enumeration of the homeless in July last year found there were 6175 homeless people on the streets.

Asked about current figures, Mayco member for community services and health Zahid Badroodien said: “We cannot provide a definitive answer without doing an actual count. But there does tend to be more people living on the street during the warmer months.

“In the new financial year the City will commission a consolidation of all enumeration studies, and the study on the reasons for homelessness. This will assist the City in improving our services to street people,” he said.

Badroodien said the recent announcement that the country was now in a recession “will place a strain on already limited shelter space. A second Safe Space will become operational in the new financial year.”

Drawing the distinction between the refugees who have been camping on the streets since November, and South Africans from Cape Town and elsewhere in the country who have done the same in smaller groups, Haven Night Shelter chief executive Hassan Khan said: “There are also issues such as inward migration.

“This is where you'll find someone has come to the city from other parts of the country, with nowhere else to live, which is when they come to shelters such as ours.”

@MwangiGithahu

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Cape Argus

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