Petersen found a way to get his head and heart onto music tracks
Cape Town - Up-and-coming musician Gerald Petersen bid farewell to a life of crime and now dedicates his time to feeding the homeless.
Petersen who fell into gangsterism in his early teen years, describes his former self as an aggressive and angry young man. Through music he was able to change his life by expressing repressed emotions and giving back to the community.
“As a man, in society you are expected to be hard, tough and suppress your emotions. Human beings are emotional beings, and when we suppress emotions it becomes toxic. Suppressed emotions result in crime and violence in men.
“Music changed my life because it allowed me to express myself and heal me.”
The musician, who is currently completing a sociology degree, is also the co-founder of Hope Street, an NPO dedicated to aiding the homeless. The organisation serves meals to the homeless once a week and has successfully seen 10 homeless people off the streets and into safe shelters.
“I asked myself what I can do to help out. I started by buying loaves of bread for homeless people here and there, but I quickly realised that by giving hand-outs I am not fundamentally helping out. I instead decided to give them opportunities to better their situations.”
Petersen explained that Hope Street is not an organisation that gets homeless people off the streets, it is an organisation that gives them the opportunity to get themselves off the streets.
“We assist the homeless by firstly building relationships with them and making them feel human again. We offer dignity through kindness and respect. We assist them in getting their IDs, getting them into safe spaces and shelters, and assisting them with their CVs.”
The A-team of the organisation consists of previously homeless people who now volunteer at the weekly soup kitchens. They serve to inspire those on the streets by showing the homeless that it's never too late to change.
Petersen will be releasing his single King of my past, dedicated to all the fathers making a change this coming Father’s Day. His new single Ecstacy and the launching of the music video Blessed will be launched at the beginning of May.
Vincent Damiano said Petersen encouraged him to live independently and was eternally grateful and thankful to him.
"I grew up in Zimbabwe and arrived in SA in 2007. I was homeless and living on the streets. I was staying at a shelter in Green Point when I heard from a friend about an organisation that serves soup in the area every Saturday, but also helps people get out of shelters. I went to meet them and they helped me. I started volunteering at the soup kitchen every Saturday and helped out with helping people get IDs at Home Affairs on behalf of the organisation."
He added he was also inspired by Petersen's journey to help others.
"I felt good helping other homeless people find their way out of the streets. I am no longer homeless and I live in Maitland, supporting myself as a poet selling poetry."