Homeless return to rail

2015-10-13 06:00
There seems to be no end in sight for the homeless people staying along the Salt River and the Woodstock railway line, despite numerous raids. 

PHOTO: 
TIYESE JERANJI

There seems to be no end in sight for the homeless people staying along the Salt River and the Woodstock railway line, despite numerous raids. PHOTO: TIYESE JERANJI

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Prasa has been blamed for not coming to the party in fighting vagrancy on their premises.

The area known as Masakane is a hotspot for homeless dwelling. The area along the railway line of Salt River and Woodstock has been associated with crimes such as drug dealing, prostitution, robbery and assault.

In an effort to deal with the problem a joint operation was held with the Woodstock police, community police forum, law enforcement and security guards of the Woodstock Improvement District.

During the operation more than 44 people were arrested for trespassing on Prasa property (“Prasa trespassers arrested”, People’s Post, 22 September). But the problem seems to be far from over as more plastic makeshift homes have been mushrooming.

Representatives of community police forums and business owners in the vicinity say Prasa is not doing anything to combat the problem.

They have blamed Prasa for being all talk and no action. It is alleged that Prasa representatives promised to fence the area off and deploy security guards with dogs. But none of that has been done.

A concerned business person, who works close to the land, says he has tried to call Prasa several times to do something, but they seem to be taking everything at a snail’s pace.

“We are the people who are affected by this. They should put up a fence and a big sign saying no trespassing. As long that is not done, this problem won’t be solved and we have to deal with the vandalism and burglary and the fear of being robbed each time we go to the station.

“I have written to Prasa several times but what have they done? Nothing. We can’t go on like this. Yes, we admit there is a problem with homelessness but this is not working properly and we can’t be watching our backs all the time because we don’t know what these people might be up to,” he says.

Youssef Kanouni, chairperson of the community police forum, says he is disappointed that nothing was done by Prasa after the raid and that homeless people are going back there.

“The area has been raided many times before and it feels like we are fighting a losing battle. Unless Prasa steps up and do what they say in meetings we are just wasting our energy. It’s like we are just pouring water on sand and hope to get something in return. We are just wasting time. Prasa promised to fence the area and put guards there but nothing of that has been done. The area is problematic and we can’t solve the problem with empty words. Prasa needs to step up,” he says.

Henry Masimla, of Prasa corporate real estate solutions, says they are doing all they can to ensure the homeless don’t live there. He reiterates that homelessness is a bigger issue.
“We will continue to have joint operations and raid the people who live there,” he says.
“It’s not just about fencing off, there is a lot of work that has to go into it and we are working on it. We are also looking for a suitable tenant so that we come up with a lasting solution.”


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