Fighting a losing battle

2016-05-31 06:00
A man takes a nap on a piece of land that the residents say brings a lot of trouble for them. PHOTO: TIYESE JERANJI

A man takes a nap on a piece of land that the residents say brings a lot of trouble for them. PHOTO: TIYESE JERANJI

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Wilson Road residents in Wynberg say they are fighting a losing battle when it comes to getting rid of homeless people who occupy a piece of land in front of their houses.

The land on the corner of Tenby and Wilson roads is a headache for the residents because of the vagrants that use it.

They say having the homeless there is making them feel unsafe because of the many different faces that come and go. The homeless also use that piece of land for sleeping, residents say.

They litter and use the area as a toilet, causing a bad smell, locals claim.

Resident Jean Hoets says they feel scared all the time.

“Each time you have to be on your toes. You have to look behind your back all the time because you just don’t know who is who. When you come home late you’re worried all the time. You have to be cautious, stop, wait, watch and reverse just to make sure that there is no one who will jump into your yard with you.

“This is not on; we don’t want this to continue and we have been calling on the councillor to act, but no-one has come forward to resolve this problem. Everyone knows it’s a hotspot and we try our best to keep it clean, but we can’t do it on our own. All we get is just talk, talk, talk and nothing gets done.”

Garages, belonging to the council, only add to the problem, with residents claiming some of the garages are being used for illegal activities and storing stolen goods.

Another resident, Katalina Cluer, says they don’t know who to turn to anymore. “The councillor knows about this. We get promises all the time, we report the matter, but nothing is done. People deal with drugs openly. You see them do it. The things that we see on this field are just bad. It makes our area untidy. The garages just make it worse.”

Residents have suggested the old garages be demolished and have the land be used as proper parking.
“The garages are just adding to crime. If the City can have a fence here and this place is turned into a proper parking lot, they can earn money and at the same time solve our problem,” says Cluer.

There are also claims that prostitution and drug peddling take place on site.
Residents say they have tried to get the area cleaned up but within a day after cleaning its dirty again with house refuse and rubble.
Ward councillor Elizabeth Brunette says street people are encouraged to sleep in Wynberg because of the “support” that they receive from residents and businesses.
“Residents feed and give money to street people; they also leave items that can be sold (bottles, tins, unwanted appliances etc) in or next to their refuse bins; provide street people with cardboard, plastic sheeting, bedding and clothing; and allow them to sleep on their property,” she says.

The Wynberg Neighbourhood Watch, the local ratepayers’ association, police, Law Enforcement officers, solid waste department, the Wynberg Improvement District and the Haven Night Shelter repeatedly ask residents to support the shelters instead of giving to street people, and to take recyclable and reusable items to the Rosmead Avenue drop-off centre, Brunette says.
“Residents are also requested not to leave their refuse bins out overnight, but this still happens.”
Brunette says in the past six months the social development department has assisted her in starting a local network of care for organisations and individuals in Ward 62 who work with street people in different ways.
In time the network will assist the department in providing street people with shelter, emotional and health support, skills training, and reintegration with their family, she says.

“If residents in Wilson Road and other areas contact the City of Cape Town’s customer services call centre every time there is a problem then the City will respond and if necessary assign more resources to the area. If residents wait until the problem escalates before reporting it to the City then there is no record of the daily problems and no justification for additional resources.”

  • Residents have been advised to contact the City’s street people or homeless call centre number 080 087 2201 if the street people are on City land. Social Development will respond to the call and their reintegration unit will offer assistance, including finding space in a shelter or reintegration into their community of origin.

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