The homeless community and civil society came together at the weekend, for a wreath laying ceremony for homeless man who died in Kuils River. Picture: Supplied
The homeless community and civil society came together at the weekend, for a wreath laying ceremony for homeless man who died in Kuils River. Picture: Supplied

Merry-go-round of frustration for Cape homeless

By Carlos Mesquita Time of article published Aug 4, 2021

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This past week saw me on a merry-go-round of frustration.

First, addressing law enforcement’s silence on their alleged involvement in a situation that saw Alphonzo Meyer, a homeless man in Kuils River, die.

The second was the news about the new temporary shelter being opened by the Haven in Strandfontein, which seems to be related to the story about some prominent Sea Point businesspeople who are trying to rid the area of its homeless people and for good measure also those individuals they regard as a hindrance to this process.

Yours truly features at the top of a list of those individuals.

A young homeless man died in Kuils River three days after allegedly having had his belongings, including blankets, taken by law enforcement.

He suffered two epileptic fits directly after the incident and on Friday night was found dead under a sheet covering. Despite three emails to law enforcement, all I know is that it was not their Displaced People’s Unit, the unit that is mandated to assist the Department of Social Development with homeless interventions that intervened and a Mr Wayne Aldridge has suggested the officers involved speak for themselves.

Then on Monday, it became known that a temporary shelter was being opened in Strandfontein for the duration of Winter Readiness, the City’s programme whereby shelters need to accommodate at least 10 extra people during the winter months in exchange for provisions by the City.

I would have celebrated a new shelter but something about this one reeked of something other than concern for the homeless living on the streets in winter.

The Haven along with other shelters was awarded this prior to the onset of winter and so it seems strange that this shelter is part of the Haven’s contribution to the programme which we are already half way through.

Another service provider has mentioned to me that his request for further winter assistance to house homeless people was declined as his organisation had already received assistance through the Winter Readiness programme.

More importantly, why is the shelter opening with no residents from the catchment area as clients?

It seems to me to be a venue for the overflow from the Haven’s Napier Street shelter, which services Vredehoek, Gardens, Tamboerskloof, the CBD, Sea Point, Green Point and the balance of the Atlantic Seaboard.

At a Zoom meeting attended by Mr Khan from the Haven, a guest of a Sea Point businessperson known for his views of homeless people in Sea Point, Mr Khan again stated that there are always open beds available at their shelters but it is the homeless people who refuse to go.

He also promoted the Haven’s “Donate R75 a week to accommodate a homeless person” at their shelters.

A phone call to Haven Napier Street will show that Napier Street is virtually always full.

But a shelter in Strandfontein which most Sea Point homeless people will refuse to be accommodated at, will assist in giving some credibility to Mr Khan’s narrative that there are always bed spaces available and that it is the homeless who are refusing to be accommodated.

What I can’t understand is that some people cannot see that by supporting this, they are in actual fact becoming the reason that we have so many homeless people sleeping on the streets of Cape Town.

Confused? SO AM I.

* Carlos Mesquita and a handful of others formed HAC (the Homeless Action Committee) that lobbies for the rights of the homeless. He also manages Our House in Oranjezicht, which is powered by the Community Chest. He can be reached at [email protected]

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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