u-turn 25 birthday

The City spends R65 million a year to aid street-based people and the additional funding is set for distribution to NGO-run shelters to scale up bed availability.

The NGO recipients still has to be decided and this can only be done once the Grant-in-Aid application process is completed according to mayoral committee member for community services and health, Patricia van der Ross. She added that the funds will be distributed by June 30.

“The call for submissions is going out soon. In addition, the City is also awaiting applications for its annual winter-readiness programme, where qualifying shelters can benefit from goods and services to help address the influx of persons from the street seeking shelter spaces during the winter months. Please note that the winter-readiness programme is not a cash disbursement, but rather goods and services. Funding is disbursed for specific projects through Grant-in-Aid applications,” said Ms Van der Ross.

Ms Van der Ross said despite the services the City offers, some of it is turned down by the street-based persons.

“Shelters are transitional spaces and not meant to provide a permanent bed/accommodation for a person coming off the streets. There are developmental programmes, job opportunities and reintegration efforts that see people moving from shelters into their own accommodation or returning to their families or suburbs/towns of origin all the time. When one person moves out of a shelter, there is a space for the next person who has indicated that they would want social assistance,” she said.

Ms Van der Ross adds that the last time the City recorded how many people were on the street they had a figure of 6 175 street-based persons; this was before the global pandemic.

“The administration has been unable to do follow-up enumerations due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, the City is awaiting the finalisation of data by Statistics South Africa, following the completion of its population census,” she says.

U-Turn, an NGO that assists homeless people, released a report in 2018/2019 that estimates over 14 000 people are on the streets of Cape Town.

The chief executive officer of U-Turn, Jean-Ray Knighton-Fitt, said while the R10 million is welcomed, a practice of sustainability should be introduced.

“We are appreciative of what they’re doing and we understand that this is a balancing of priorities for the City due to the economic crises that we are facing. There is a need to handle this problem properly and there is a need for more resources,” said Mr Knighton-Fitt.

Mr Knighton-Fitt also points out that the availability of beds for homeless people is a serious challenge as there are approximately 2 000 beds available for those on the street, which is a temporary solution.

“Besides providing beds there has to be a developmental approach. In government-funded shelters they have have to be out after six months and then you move on, but where do they move on to? So people go from one shelter to another and never leave the streets.

“There has to be a therapeutic process to get the person off the street and that includes dealing with trauma and addiction, to getting them proper job skills and helping them to get employment.”

Hassan Khan, the chief executive officer of The Haven night shelters, confirmed that they have 1 132 formal beds in 15 locations, extending from Green Point to Paarl to assist the homeless.

“The Haven believes that 100-bed shelters are the way to go. When we have facilities for 100 homeless persons we won’t need to increase staff costs. This makes the shelters more efficient and sustainable,” said Mr Khan.

Mr Khan added that while he does not expect money from the City, he says there is an agreement to arrange for prefab units for sleeping and bathrooms at shelters on City land.

Ward 54 councillor, Nicola Jowell, said she welcomes the City’s decision to increase the budget.

“The concerns around the increased homelessness in the city and Atlantic Seaboard is of the highest priority to the community from both the perspective of concern for the homeless and the knock-on effect with regards to City services and the broader impact on the community,” said Ms Jowell.

At the time of going to print the other NGOs did not respond in time to the Atlantic Sun’s request for comment on the City’s budget for the homeless.

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