About U-Turn

U-Turn equips the homeless with skills to overcome homelessness

U-turn Homeless Ministry is a thriving Christian registered non-profit that is headquartered in Cape Town. Our organisation is founded on the belief in life after homelessness and on the knowledge that every individual is created in the image of God. For this reason our mission statement is to equip the homeless with skills to overcome homelessness.

Over the past 21 years, we have crafted an innovative and sustainable pathway out of homelessness. Our phased programme moves from basic needs relief, offering food and clothing, to Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Support, and culminates in sheltered work-based rehabilitation that nurtures an individual’s resilience through vocational skills, work experience, occupational therapy, as well as the development of self-belief and dignity. Participants graduate into the open labour market. Our results are positive and long-term. Take a look at our Annual Report.

We have a driven team, who work hard to turn the tide of growing homelessness.

To create a lasting solution to homeless, U-turn innovates:

  • we use a cashless vouchers system entitling the holder to a meal or clothing. Importantly it is a ticket to support services and activities to ignite motivation for change.
  • we pioneered occupational therapy for the homeless in Cape Town (rather than social workers) to establish practical tools to overcome life challenges.
  • we work alongside the people we serve, enabling us to subsidise stipends and for them to serve others still living on the streets.
  • Nearly half of our income is self-generated through social enterprises such as our software consultancy agency to other NPOs, called Connect Consulting, and retail businesses.

Our ethos is underpinned by the need for lasting change, partnerships with other NGOs, human dignity and integrity.

If you share our beliefs or would like to find out more, please contact us.

Meet the Team

Sam Vos

Director U-Turn

I studied engineering at Stellenbosch University and upon graduation I moved to London to go and travel the world. In London I worked in the financial industry helping with project management for a large asset manager. I met my beautiful wife and after 7 years, we decided to move back to Cape Town. When we returned I was struck for the first time with the stark difference between rich and poor.

I wanted to make a difference to those who were stuck in poverty & so started to volunteer at U-turn in 2005. U-turn maintained a lovely balance between explaining the good news of Jesus found in the bible, yet also helping individuals practically to overcome their challenges. In 2006 I joined the staff team on a full time basis and have been here ever since.

The one item I would need if I were homeless is…

My Library Card

Sam’s library card will not only give him access to books, but to computers with internet. He would specifically use the internet to search for local shelters and food drives to help him get off the street as soon as possible.

Jacquie Besselaar

PA to the Director

I started working at U-turn in January 2013 as PA to Sam, the Director. I originally came from a High School teaching background and spent the bulk of my working life after that as a Bookkeeper and Administrator. After a few years at home with young children, I have enjoyed joining the work force again at Uturn! I am married to Roald and we have two daughters, Carmen and Alaina.

I have previously only observed U-turn’s growth from the sidelines and it has been amazing to see how the organisation has grown over the years from meeting the hunger of the homeless on the doorstep of a private home a block away from mine to the organisation it is today: walking homeless individuals through a process of trying distance themselves from dependency, learning new work skills, finding sheltered employment and finally assisting with the task of finding a job and a home in society again.

I look forward to learning more and being involved first-hand with some of the exciting plans U-turn has for the year ahead!

The one item I would need if I were homeless is…

My Wooden Spoon

Jacquie’s wooden spoon belonged to her mother, so it has deep sentimental value. It represents many childhood memories of baking with her mother, and she can even use it for self defence!

Jacquie Besselaar

Chief Finance Officer

Sarah joined U-Turn in December 2012 as the Finance Officer. This was a new departure for her as her previous experience was working for some of the larger accountancy firms in the UK. She enjoyed her previous work but increasingly wanted to put her skills and experience to better use in the charitable/developmental sector. After moving to Cape Town with her husband and three children, she was introduced to U-Turn by a friend and was delighted to be able to join the team.

Sarah runs the U-turn finance department which is a challenging and varied role including monthly management accounts and annual accounts, overseeing the U-turn finances in general as well as HR issues.

The one item I would need if I were homeless is…

My Library Card

Reading is very important to Sarah, and it will also keep her mind distracted and enriched.

Claudine Fisher

Retail Operations Manager

The one item I would need if I were homeless is…
I’ve worked in Corporate Retail for 25+ years then took a break after the birth of my youngest daughter Cle as I felt my job wasn’t fulfilling any longer, I needed to do something more “rewarding” and wanted to use my knowledge and expertise in a positive manner. I am married to Paul and have 3 children, Carl, Chloe & Cle. Having spent quite some time at home with my kids playing mom’s taxi to and from all school & sports events, I was now getting restless and needed to get back into the routine of work.

I was introduced to U-turn through my church St. James where I often heard about the good work U-turn was doing in the community with the homeless. With this in mind I enquired about the opportunity to do voluntary work to keep me busy until the next job opportunity came. I didn’t get to volunteer as God had other plans and prayers were answered in that in November 2013 I joined U-turn’s fulltime staff as Retail Operations Manager, employed to run the second-hand clothing operations, retail stores & training our 2nd Phase clients job skills to prepare them for the open labour market.

It is a privilege for me to work with our clients on a daily basis & walking their journeys with them through tough challenges as well as their victories. I thank the Lord for giving me the opportunity to experience this reward where I can be part of making a difference in the lives of our clients.


Because of it’s uses such as being a blanket or a pillow, Claudine can make use of her newspaper on a daily basis, while staying up to date on the latest news.

Jonathan Hopkins

Social Franchise Manager

I have been part of U-turn since December 2016. My role is to set up a Social Franchise to replicate U-turn’s successful model to other towns and cities across South Africa.

Before joining U-turn I spent 9 years in the HIV sector working for an international organisation based in London building the capacity of non-profit organisations all over the world. I have also spent time working with the UN in Swaziland and as a primary school teacher in Tanzania.

The one item I would need if I were homeless is…

My Bicycle

Jon’s bike is essential to him, as it helps him stay mobile and active, for free!

Lise van den Dool

Occupational Therapist – Head of First Phase

I joined the U-Turn team in July 2014. I was privileged to be accepted on the Vodacom Change the World 2014 team, an initiative by Vodacom to assist professionals to get involved in the NGO sector. Vodacom CTW has made it possible for me to join the U-Turn team in the capacity of 1stPhase Coordinator, bringing rehabilitation services to 1st Phase.I am passionate about seeing people’s personalities come to life and seeing them actively partake in life. I am also passionate about the outdoors. If I could spend every day all day out of doors in the mountains or next to the sea, I would be the happiest person in the world.


The one item I would need if I were homeless is…

U-Turn Meal Vouchers

With this meal voucher, Lise would not go hungry while she worked towards getting herself off the street.

Anneke Venter

Head of Rehabilitation

I joined the U-turn team in November 2009. My work entails rehabilitation activities with homeless people, busy transitioning from the streets back to society, program development and leading the rehabilitation team at U-turn.

I feel tremendously blessed to have the opportunity to do two of the things that I feel most passionate about all day long and get paid for it too! Since I have been a student I have wanted to combine working as an Occupational Therapist with working in Christian ministry. Now the dream is a reality.

I qualified as an Occupational Therapist in 2003 and worked in Mpumalanga for 2 years. Then I put Occupational Therapy on ice for two years, while studying a Diploma in Christian Ministry in the UK. After that I worked as an Occupational Therapist for another year in the Government sector, before starting at U-turn.

In my free time I like spending time with friends, reading, going to the gym and doing arts and crafts.

The one item I would need if I were homeless is…

Hand Sanitizer

As a bit of a germaphobe, and someone who likes to keep her hands squeaky clean all the time, Anneke sees her hand sanitiser as essential.

Joanne de Goede

Occupational Therapy


The one item I would need if I were homeless is…


Everyone knows Joanne as a bookworm. Books are her way of escaping life by drawing her away into another world.

Dylan Marais

Rehabilitation Team

I’ve been blessed to be part of U-turn since 2007, during which time I’ve covered various jobs from shelter manager to 1st phase co-coordinator and office manager. My heart has always been in teaching and I currently enjoy working within the 2nd phase rehabilitation team as a facilitator on the LifeChange programme, where I teach the bible, character development, IT skills and English.

I’m trained as a minister of religion and hold a post graduate degree in theology from the North West University and George Whitfield Theological College.

The one item I would need if I were homeless is…

A Bow and Arrow

Dylan’s bow and arrow will come in handy for hunting food if need be, and also for self defence!

Nicole van der Vyver


I started at U-turn as a volunteer. I’ve never been a volunteer before so I was really excited and a bit nervous too. Because of my OT background I fitted in well and started as an OT assistant.

From the get go, I knew I would be a part of U-turn for a long time and even prayed about it. God is so good. He answered my prayers and now I am on the staff team and since my beginnings with the OT department, I have now joined the finance team as the bookkeeper. I’ve learned so much (including about myself) and continue to learn. Working with the homeless definitely has its challenges but we wouldn’t grow if we did the same things, at the same time, every single day.

I would recommend getting involved. The joy you receive by knowing you helped turn someone’s life around, for the better, is something I can’t put into words. You have to experience it for yourself.

Thank you Lord for placing me at U-turn!

The one item I would need if I were homeless is…

Colouring Pencils

As a creative person, Nicole’s pencils bring some colour to her life. She can draw for hours and it brings her immense joy.

Chrissy Lombardt

Retail Managers Assistant / Relief Store Manager

The one item I would need if I were homeless is…

My Hair Brush

Chrissy’s hairbrush is important to her because without it, her hair would be out of control!

Jerome George

U-Turn Driver

I came onto the programme in 2010 and enjoyed the work that U-turn was doing. The life change programme was very helpful in changing a person’s life around for the better. As I enjoyed the work that U-turn was doing I continued working and learning.

Currently I’m a driver at U-turn and I enjoy it a lot.

The one item I would need if I were homeless is…

A Lighter

Jerome never knows when a lighter will come in handy, and he also sees it as a symbol of him bringing light into the darkness.

Helen Joseph

First Phase Team

My name is Helen and I am married to Derek. The Lord has blessed us with two children. I started working for U-turn in 2004. I do the cooking for the soup kitchens at the Power House (First Phase venue) in Claremont. In the evenings the food is served by other First Phase staff members.

I am also involved in a ladies’ ministry. This mainly involves the homeless women. I enjoy speaking to them about Jesus and what He has done for us. I love swimming and enjoy the outdoor life.

The one item I would need if I were homeless is…

A Loaf of Bread

As a cook, Helen knows the importance of keeping herself well fed. This is why she would need her bread to get through the day.

Annakie Gammon

System Developer

I joined U-turn mid-March 2012 as a System Developer, working on our CRM (Customer Relationship Management) database system.

I studied Industrial Engineering at Stellenbosch and have worked at IT companies in the past, but had taken some time out to look after my daughters Hana and Emma. Now that they are at school going age, I am enjoying the challenge of going back to work. I am married to Donald and as a family we have been involved at St Stephens church for a number of years.

I am really enjoying working for U-turn as an organisation! I feel that I’m learning so much and being blessed so much, by working for U-turn.

The one item I would need if I were homeless is…


Books will keep Annakie going no matter what! She would feel rather lost and bored without them.

Themba Mazibuko

Salesforce Consultant

When I grew up in Benoni, east of Johannesburg, I was told that computers are very powerful in such a way that they can help you do well in your studies. That’s when my interest in computers started because I also wanted to do well in my studies (just bear in mind that computers are just machines created by humans – they need to be instructed in what to do before they can perform). Then after matriculating I went to study IT Programming.

After Graduating I worked for several companies in the Customer Service Industry. Then I realized that I needed to go back to my field and do what I love – working with computers. I heard that CapaCiti100 was offering post-graduates an opportunity to be a part of their learnership in partnership with Cape Peninsula University of Cape Town, Working Technologies and Oracle. I applied and my application was successful -that’s how I moved to Cape Town and now I am an Oracle Certified Professional, Java SE6 Programmer.

In September 2012 Sam Vos, the Director of U-Turn, offered me a chance to be part of his workforce as an IT Coordinator. My job entails, but is not limited to:

  1. Develop and Improve U-turn’s IT infrastructure (hardware & software): to ensure a seamless support of U-turn’s operations
  2. Develop and Improve U-turn’s Website
  3. Develop and Improve the IT training for U-turn’s beneficiaries
  4. Use and Contribute to existing systems to ensure continuous improvement of your areas of responsibility

Lastly I will like to thank God for Bringing me to U-turn!!!
The one item I would need if I were homeless is…

My Bank Card

Themba’s bank card is of great value to him, as he can use it to buy food, clothes and other essentials!

Meet the Board

Jean Swan – Chairlady

Jean Swan has over the years developed a heart for the poor and gained hands on experience through serving on the Christ Church Kenilworth Social Transformation Committee, and by her involvement with the Feeding the Hungry ministry and St John’s Parish Warehouse.

Andrew Kingston

My interest in U-turn developed from a desire to serve Christ and to assist the Church community with something where I felt I could add value. U-turn was such an organisation – particularly as they follow Christ’s example of uplifting the poor and vunerable. U-turn particularly resonates with me as it seeks to make a difference in people’s lives on a sustainable basis, by developing skills that can be developed for the long-term.

I’m a CA(SA) – chartered accountant and a CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) – having worked in the investment industry for 20 years. I’m married to a wonderful woman – Haidee – and we have 3 girls – Laura, Phoebe and Imogen. We live in Claremont and have a natural interest in assisting U-turn – with the many homeless people we encounter on an ongoing basis in our community.

I met Sam through St Stephens church which we both attend and also saw in Sam someone who was Godly, passionate and wanting to make a difference – and so to support him in his capacity as “CEO” of U-turn was an obvious calling.

Dave Dominicus

I completed my articles of clerkship with KPMG in Johannesburg & Cape Town, after which I joined MNet / MultiChoice / DStv in various local and international capacities which largely involved the establishment and growth of a DStv distribution network throughout Africa.

In 1999 I relocated to Cape Town as part of MultiChoice’s gaming strategy which included the preparation of a bid to win the National Lottery License and the start of an internet-based sports betting initiative. In 2002 I was prompted by an opportunity to follow my passion for property and in 2003 started Monarc Developments (Pty) Ltd, a business that focuses primarily on the project management and development processes of boutique residential and commercial opportunities. Over the years the business has grown to include Monarc Projection Plastering (Pty) Ltd, Monarc Painting & Decorating (Pty) Ltd and Monarc Business Administration (Pty) Ltd.

Phillip Marchant

When our Lord called me out of my darkness in 2001 and sent me to St. Stephens, I was amazed at the work He was doing through his servant, Colleen Lewis (founder of U-turn), in her ministry to the homeless in the Claremont area. It was through her that I learnt much about love unconditional, in the way that her many ‘let downs’ and disappointments did nothing to detract from her manifest love for those the world finds unlovable.

Testimony time was always a great encouragement for me, and helped me to understand the grace God had shown me. It was in church one morning that Colleen was interviewing one of her ‘children’, Joseph, who together with his wife had previously been living on the street, trying to raise a family of three. One of their struggles was that their children had been asked to leave school because of fees arrears, which was a cause of great concern to them, naturally.

I wonder if we could ever grasp the magnitude of having to bring up children on the street, still managing to send them off to school in clean clothing? Yet there are many today for whom this is a stark reality.

But back to the story! Through Colleen’s intervention, Joseph had managed to establish a very successful enterprise in supplying the surrounding businesses with their toilet paper (donated by one of the Saints) needs. He would stuff as many rolls into as many black bags he could carry, and hit the road in his two-shoe company transport, sometimes as far afield as Sea Point!

Anyway, Colleen said “So Joseph, I believe you have managed to pay your children’s school fees a year in advance, now”. To which he replied “Two years, Miss Colleen”.

I think my heart broke at that point, and I asked Colleen if I could volunteer my services to U-turn. Over the course of time it has been my absolute privilege to serve on the overseers board together with a body of faithful Saints, being invited into the chair on the strength of having the nicest signature, I think. U-turn has grown and grown as the Lord leads, and has developed a model likely unique by world standards. It’s visions to reach every homeless person in the land and to show them the person of Jesus, who alone can provide a permanent home, are infinitely attainable, with the help of the Saints!

Sandile Mtethwa

My name is Sandile Mthethwa, originally from KZN, but have been a resident of the Western Cape since my first year at GWC (George Whitefield Bible College) in 2009. I completed my degree at GWC in 2012. I currently work as a student’s pastor at the Message church in Mowbray. The work at U-turn has always had a precious place in my heart especially since, having grown up at an orphanage, I have some idea of rejection and being in want. The opportunities U- Turn seeks to provide for those keen to change their life around are something everyone needs and it will be my great pleasure to come on board the team and play my part in the work that God is doing through His people.

Tee Makhabane

My name is Tee Makhabane and I currently work as an equity research assistance for a stockbroking firm in Cape Town. Originally from Johannesburg, but after being in Cape Town for 8 years I consider it home. I am passionate about our Creator and all that he has created. The Bible tells us mankind is created in the image of God. It is this truth that drives my passion for the poor and vulnerable. That Jesus loves the homeless and has called those who are his followers to demonstrate his love for those in need. It is a joy and a privilege to be part of showing God’s unfailing love and commitment to the poor and vulnerable along with U-turn. Proverbs 31:20 “She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.”

Anthony Buratovich

Anthony runs the Natural Company and the a courier company as a member of St.Stephens he has always had a passion for helping the homeless and being involved in U-Turn.


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.