Maitland. 25.07.14. Bobby Lambert ,43, a homeless man from Maitland inside the 2mX2m wooden box in an empty space next to a parking lot in Amstel Street which he calls home. Lambert works as a carguard at a nearby Shoprite store. Picture Ian Landsberg

Cape Town - The City of Cape Town says its reintegration projects for street people have provided aid to more than 1 000 people. But it is still concerned at the number of people who live on the streets.

Mayoral committee member for social development Suzette Little said that from November last year to June this year field workers had recorded almost 200 more

street people.

“Our field workers across the city engage with street people on a daily basis to assess their needs and offer assistance where possible. Between November last year and June 2014, field workers facilitated medical and other rehabilitative services, as well as reintegration for 1 128 people.”

She said many homeless people had approached the city for help.

“The eight city-sponsored assessment centres that started operating in January have assessed more than 300 street people.

“These centres have helped 65 people return to their communities of origin and have assisted more than 200 others in accessing mental health services, treatment for substance abuse, job skills development programmes and state grants.”

But for Bobby Lambert, 43, living on the street is how he survives. He said, for him, it was the “most” viable option.

Lambert said he went to live on the streets after losing his job as a caretaker at a chocolate factory in Kensington near Maitland.

He is originally from Maitland and lost his parents 10 years ago. The rest of his family was “scarce”, he said.

“I help the motorists in the parking lot find parking spots and they give me a R5 or more. I don’t want to mope around about my situation and neither do I want to steal and commit crime. It is not the most ideal situation at this stage of my life, but I will make do with what I have so far,” he said.

Lambert said he would rather live in his 2x2 makeshift wooden structure than go to a night shelter. He erected the structure at the garage of a home in Maitland.

“It’s like a prison there. You go in and then out again during the day. You don’t do anything productive there.”

Lambert said city officials had approached him in 2010 and again in this January, but nothing had come of it.

Another homeless person, Colin Diedricks, said moving to a shelter was not an option he was considering. He had left his parental home in 2008 and was living under cardboard sheeting near a parking lot in Maitland.

“This is not good for me, but I have no other choice. My father died in 2008 and I do not want to live with my stepmother. I live and work on the street and make my life here.”

Little said people could not be forced to enter the programme or go to the shelter if they did not want to.

“Our efforts to help people get off the streets would be futile if we ignored others who continue to migrate to the streets. Thus our overall strategy also includes a number of interventions focusing on families, substance abuse, truancy and youth development - areas of risk that tend to serve as catalysts for why people end up on the streets.”

She said 16 shelters had qualified for a R280 000 grant to assist street people during the winter.

Little said 200 mattresses and blankets, as well as food and toiletries, had been provided to the organisations.

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Cape Times