Meet the Team
Meet the Board
U-Turn Homeless Ministry is a thriving, Christian, non-profit organisation headquartered in Cape Town, South Africa.
A few things we hold dear...
We believe that God does not want anyone to live and die on a pavement. He’s created mankind for far more than that and to leave people to suffer on the street grieves Him. God therefore calls his followers to step in and help fellow sojourners whenever we find opportunity to do so. All of U-turn’s work is therefore a response to the grace, love and calling we’ve received from God to help where we can. In pursuit of this we do however hold to a number of values and principles:
U-turn believes that the world will be a better place for EVERYONE, if homeless people are assisted to become whole again: Wholeness, not merely in financial or physical ways, but also in relational, spiritual and in emotional ways. We believe that this is possible and with the right help, everyone can become whole.
We believe that a task as ambitious as this cannot be achieved on our own and for that reason, we cherish, cultivate and actively pursue effective partnerships: effective partnerships with other service providers, effective partnerships with the communities in which we operate and also effective partnerships with street people themselves.
We also believe that in a thriving society, everyone should be able to work, and that work should be meaningful. For that reason our 2nd phase rehabilitation programs are delivered in work place settings overseen by Occupational Therapists. These programs are designed to inculcate a healthy work ethic, furnish modern job skills and give 18-24 months of real work experience so that individuals can learn how to be employed gainfully and participate in the 21st Century economy.
If you share these beliefs or would like to find out more, we invite you to join us in our pursuit to bring a U-turn programme to every city in the world!
1997 – Formation and the early years
U-turn was founded in 1997 by Colleen Lewis. Colleen wanted to make a difference to the homeless in her community. With a simple offer of food and a weekly bible study, she started the ministry at her home. When numbers grew beyond the neighbour’s tolerance levels, the weekly gathering was moved to St Stephens church in Claremont. St Stephens really helped the ministry to survive during our infancy years, providing office space, support and guidance. U-turn has maintained ties with St Stephens ever since.
2004 – 2008 A shelter and workshop in Claremont
In 2004 the work took a big step forward when, with the help of the Claremont Improvement District Company, a warehouse was hired from the City of Cape Town. U-turn developed the building into a centre that had accommodation for staff and male residents on the first floor with skills training workshops on the ground floor. Sadly this building was demolished in 2008 when the City built the Claremont Boulevard. The work was then moved to the Powerhouse.
2006 – U-Turn implements Salesforce – the birth of an information driven organization
The move to establish U-turn as an information driven organization started in 2006 when we implemented Salesforce. This information system is used extensively throughout U-turn and impacts every aspect of our work. In time, we moved to capture all fundraising effort, client interaction & stakeholder information in the system and this is analysed to help us discern trends and forge new partnerships.
2007 – Work based programmes start
In 2007, U-turn started our work-based rehabilitation programmes by tendering to clean graffiti in the southern suburbs of Cape Town. This allowed us to engage street people in work activities and we then used it as the start of our Social Enterprize efforts. We continued the graffiti removals work until 2012.
2008 – Powerhouse & Munchies cottage
When the Fir Street building was demolished, the city offered us an old disused electric switch station which we converted into our service centre. We named this building the Powerhouse due to the history as an electric power station as well as our desire to empower people. The City also offered us a small cottage a few blocks away called Munchies (after the former use as a fast food vendor). The latter was developed to be a small shelter for a few of the men that were enrolled on our programme and later became one of our charity stores.
2008 – Better M&E via DELSTAT™
In 2008, we customized Salesforce to accommodate all U-turn’s M&E data (Monitoring & Evaluation). This module is called DELSTAT (after Deliver Statistics) and in years to come proved so powerful that we started selling it to other non-profits through our Connect Consulting Social Enterprize.
2009 – OTs
U-turn pioneered the use of Occupational Therapists to rehabilitate homeless people.
2010 – A new HQ
Thanks to funding from the Lotto, we purchase our head quarters building in Kenilworth and move our offices out of St Stephens church.
2010 - Connect Consulting™ is born
Requests for our skills to implement Salesforce became so frequent that we decided to launch a social enterprize called Connect Consulting, that helps other NPOs to adopt Salesforce as their information system. The consultancy has been running successfully ever since.
2011 – The birth of U-Turn charity stores
We open our first charity store in Southfield thanks to a generous landlord that offered us the space rent free. This becomes our new employment vehicle by which we engage our homeless people.
2013 – 2016 More stores
Over the years we were pleased to be able to open more stores thus growing the number of P2 Life Change positions available for Street people.
2017 – Work to replicate U-Turn to other cities
Thanks to funding from Rawson (the estate agents) we start working formally on plans to replicate U-turn through a social franchise model. Once our preparation work is complete, we will advertise on this website. Register your interest to hear about this here.
Our BHAG: 10 x 100
We are currently working on 2 business ambitions at U-turn:
A. 100X Rehab Positions.
We are officially working on plans to grow the current rehab positions at U-turn’s life change positions to 100 positions! Given that each of these positions entails a 2-year engagement of the individual (on average), it means we have to substantially grow our social enterprises in order to enable this. The reason we set our sights on 100, is because we would like to help to empty an entire shelter’s worth of people every year. That would create much needed movement in the homelessness value chain. In order to create the above we are constantly exploring sustainable business opportunities in Cape Town that creates stimulating engagement for people who perform the work. If you have any business ideas / opportunities that satisfy those criteria, please be in contact with us.
B. 10X U-Turns
Our other main business ambition is to replicate U-turn to 10 other locations across South Africa in the next few years. We are currently codifying the U-turn operations and will eventually invite interested non-profits to apply to run the U-turn model in their location as a social franchise. The latter is different to a normal commercial franchise because it seeks to multiply impact, rather than profits as per normal commercial franchise models. Qualifying NPOs will then receive training, tools, and a lot of support to establish separate U-turn entities in their own location. If you would like to find out more about this, please get in contact.
1. Powerhouse Expansion to be able to work with more street people
In 2016, U-turn delivered over 13000 services to 940 unique individuals at our service centre in Claremont. As impressive as this was, we could have done more if we had more space! In the last half of the year our services were all running at capacity and we had to turn individuals away on a daily basis because could not accommodate more in our building. What a shame that street people who wants to receive help can’t access it due to a lack of space! Looking at the building though, there is huge opportunity to develop the building so that we can serve more people. The back part of the building lack a roof and walls and have trees growing out of it! We have drawn up plans on how we would like to develop this building and are currently seeking approval from the landlord (the City of Cape Town) for these plans. If you own a building company or could donate funds to help us with the expansion of this building, we would be extremely grateful for any support you can offer.
2. Biometric readers to enhance data capturing & client identification
We would like to enhance our record keeping system by adding biometric reader technology to it so that all staff and indeed any non-profit that use the system could identify clients using finger prints. The latter would reduce data capturing time, reduce duplicates in client data and also eliminate the possibility of fraudulent service deliver recording in the field.
If you have access to biometric reader technology or are able to fund us to develop the technology ourselves, we would be very keen to hear from you.
3. Citywide database to enable greater partnerships and collaboration between NGOs
We would like to see all street people charities working in the city to be able to share information with each other about who they are serving and in what way. This will enable charities to eliminate duplication of services amongst themselves and will also allow for effective referrals and case management. In order for this to happen we believe we need to create a city-wide database so that all services rendered in the sector can be visible to other authorised service providers. Various cities across the world have already built similar solutions and we would like to create that for Cape Town too.
In pursuit of this dream, U-turn created the DELSTAT M&E suite that sits on the Salesforce platform. This allows individual charities to capture client service delivery activities and also then shares a copy of this to a central database (called DELSTAT Central). The system as it stands already contains the major building blocks required for a citywide database. If we could bring this system to the other partners in Cape Town, we could significantly enhance service delivery to street people in the city! All this requires is funding so that 15 non-profits could adopt the system. To adopt the technology would cost approx. R80 000 –R120 000 per non-profit and this will also bring them the other benefits of a modern, state of the art CRM system, currently used by over 30 000 non-profits globally.
If you share the dream of better collaboration between non-profits and are able to provide funds so that other non-profits to adopt the technology, we would be very keen to hear from you.
4. A warehouse to facilitate continued growth
In order for us to achieve our 100 rehab positions in Cape Town, we need to grow our laundry and other business activities. Our current laundry cannot continue to grow in the head office building so we are officially looking for warehouse space somewhere between Govan Mbeki road, Epping Industria and Airport Industria. Voortrekker Road corridor or Athlone industria would be ideal to serve the existing shops that we have. Ideally the warehouse would be 5 x 500m2 units with some office space & parking too. Anyone who can help us secure this , whether they have funds to purchase or expertize to help us identify it, should please get in touch.
5. A Campus for the homeless to start services for the missing 5000 street people
Cape Town currently has 7500 homeless individuals of which only 2500 are in shelters! It means 5000 people are sleeping rough each night! Faced with this HUGE backlog of infrastructure and subsequent service delivery, we dreaming of a day when we could create a campus for homeless people where up to 120 individuals can live, receive training and work at the same time. We have drawn up plans that show that we would need approx. 4000m2 and R12m per annum to operate it. The businesses we would run on the premises would assist to keep the costs down and in time, will eliminate the need for on-going funding altogether. Anyone who can assist us to make this plan become a reality (eg you have industrial space in Cape Town, or you have substantial funds to help us to acquire the infrastructure) should please be in contact.
6. Expanding U-Turn services to other neighbourhoods in Cape Town.
In 2016, a community in Cape Town asked us to design a solution for homeless people in their area. We set to work and designed a solution that would have a capacity to engage 50 street people at a time. This solution included 1st phase work (ie a service centre) complete with support from the community, specialized Drug and Alcohol rehabilitation, as well as 2nd phase work ie work-based rehabilitation with Occupational therapists. Our calculations showed that the total cost to operate this solution each year would be R2.1m. Between the partner and U-turn we could generate R700 000 for the project but we still needed an additional R1.4m per annum before we could undertake such a project.
If you have approx. R1.8 - 2.1m and are interested to see if this solution can work in your area, or if you have approx. R1.4m to help us create the solution in the original area, please get in touch. The actual costs to operate in your area might well be reduced if we have a chance to explore what existing infrastructure is available.