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A proposed new 300-bed overnight facility for homeless people in Green Point, dubbed a Safe Space by the City, has received the full support of The Green Point Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association (GPRRA), and is expected to be opened by the end of the year.

GPRRA chair of the human environment committee, Elizabeth Knight, said the area depended on overnight shelters to help people off the street.

“With the economy (as it is) and so many people requiring assistance, we appeal to residents to also consider the needs of the homeless; to focus on the positive aspects of Safe Spaces,” said Knight. “As ratepayers we will try to play a role along with other representatives in the area to ensure that it works and that it is a cohesive part of our community.”

With the deadline for public comment on 8 May, Knight said they were in the process of making recommendations to the City. “The ratepayers are behind it but we will make our recommendations. We are dependent on the psychosocial services and job creation (provided by the Safe Space model). She admitted shelters were short term solutions but the GPRRA had witnessed the personal development of those who had been helped off the streets.

Spider Clark, chairperson of the neighbouring De Waterkant Civic Association (DWCA), said they supported the initiative in principle.

“Interventions need to take place. It’s unsustainable to have so many people homeless and living on the street,” said Clark. “Any constructive interventions that can deliver results should be supported. Where the opportunity lies to provide a facility like a Safe Space, which is reasonably close to employment opportunities, those have definitely got to be welcomed.”

Homeless Action Coalition chairperson Ndodana Hadebe said they support the idea of Safe Spaces but they needed to be better managed.

Hadebe said the Safe Space model did not cater for families and children. “There must be a section (in the Safe Space) for families,” he said.

Also, those using the Safe Space had to leave by a certain time each morning, and take their belongings with them, and stays were for a maximum of three months. He said this did not allow for free movement, and as the goal was to reintegrate people into society, pushing them out onto the streets again after three months meant the process of reintegration had to be started anew.

Makhaya Mkheto, who lives in a makeshift shelter with his partner under the Ebenezer Road bridge where the Green Point Safe Space is to be built, said it was a good idea to develop a new shelter there.

Mkheto, who has been homeless for 15 years, said living on the street was “not a good life”.

“We stay on the street and we are parking cars to get money for something to eat. I would like to get money to go back home to my family.”

Business owners GroundUp spoke to in the Ebenezer Road area were also in support of the new overnight shelter.

Alvin Hirner, a jewelry designer who ran a shop near the proposed Safe Space, said it was vital that the issue of homelessness in the area was addressed.

Hirner said people needed to feel safe and walk freely in the city, but the homeless were “victims of what’s happening on a bigger scale in society”.

Zaid Meyer, a manager at Fines SA which also has offices in the area, said it was “a brilliant idea” as it would provide the homeless people living beneath the Ebenezer Road bridge with shelter and food.

Mayco Member for Community Services and Health, Patricia van der Ross, said a working group would be established to review the comments after the closing date.

Van der Ross said the City was looking to re-purpose other municipal-owned sites for Safe Spaces in Bellville, Muizenberg, and Durbanville in the coming months.

She said overnight shelters were not a “final home” but “a renewable resource used only for a period of time until a person is able to stand on their own feet, or reunite with their family or friends in a supportive environment”.

“The City, shelters and various organisations work ceaselessly to reintegrate people with their communities and families and to help them into more sustainable accommodation options,” she said.

GroundUp has reported that the City plans to spend R77-million this year and R230-million over the next three years (a 62% increase) on its Safe Space programme to help homeless people in Cape Town. – Matthew Hirsch, Ground Up

Originally published by Ground Up on 5 May 2023

Photo: Pexels/Timur Weber