Homeless to get a voice

2016-09-20 06:00

The Muizenberg Improvement District (MID) is now working together with neighbouring suburbs to improve the lives of the many street people in the precinct.

From October, the improvement district will appoint a field worker who will assist street people in the Kalk Bay St James Special Rates Areas (KBSJ SRA).

Marion Thomas is already contracted by the KBSJ SRA to alleviate the social issues in the area, but will also service the MID area from 1 October.

MID social development director Marion Wagner says: “We believe that the appointment of Thomas will help synergise implementation strategies for social development within Far South SRAs and strengthen relationships with the City of Cape Town and provincial departments.”

Wagner says: “The influx of homeless people (and the pseudo homeless) into Muizenberg this past winter has been alarming. When you add roaming street children, drug dealers and criminals into the mix, it gets messy and highly contentious. The situation is nothing new and the MID has taken a hard look at the interventions it has tried to date and the need to make changes to its social development strategy.”

While the MID’s social development programme has achieved the reintegration of some Muizenberg street people and has supported 30 new homeless to find shelter accommodation, the MID only has capacity to provide top-up services.

Having a dedicated social worker in the area helps to forge working relationships with other stakeholders and role-players, Thomas explains.

A social worker is also able to refer street people to specialised organisations when it is needed so that the person can be assisted properly.

Wagner adds: “Social workers are trained to think in two ways at the same time. While they deal with issues at a grass roots level, they also need to consider what intervention strategies will affect the bigger picture. This in turn leads to ensuring that practice is aligned with the policies governing the sector so that proper service delivery is achieved.”

Synergising efforts in Kalk Bay and St James with Muizenberg is a logical step, Wagner explains. “There are many overlaps between Muizenberg, St James and Kalk Bay. Street people stroll between these villages as they search for shelter, food and support. You can’t throw them out of the area because it is their home; they are part of the community. But in the far south we don’t have the same level of resource capacity as areas closer to the city. The field workers make contact with a street person or street child at least six times to find out as much as they can about their needs.”

Every possible effort is made to reunite street people with their families, as well as providing other support, says Wagner. “Instead of policing street people around the city we need to give the homeless a voice and find responsible programmes that work.”

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