Taking a train to vagrancy

2015-08-11 06:00

Residents in Lansdowne are concerned about the ever-growing “community” under the bridge near the train station.

Residents say they are concerned about shacks and unsavoury characters becoming more prevalent in the area.

One resident, who requested to remain anonymous out of fear of victimisation, says she fears for her safety as she travels by train during the week.

“When you come here in the morning these people are hanging around. I become nervous because you never know their motives,” she says.

She feels she or other commuters may become a target of crime “sooner rather than later”.

“You get commuters who are here early in the morning and because it is still so dark in the morning, visibility is an issue. You can be robbed by anybody and this makes me worried,” she says.

According to the woman the shacks are built from cardboard and crates.

“It looks untidy and it looks like it’s just growing. Something really needs to be done to assist these people with either a shelter or an alternative place to live before it spirals out of control,” she adds.

Infested with dirtResident Keith Blake says he has notified authorities of the situation already.

“A few weeks ago I wrote an email on the state of the area of Lansdowne station, next to Lansdowne bridge and the area surrounding or bordering Osmans, the pavements and the pub area that is infested with dirt. Dirt that no-one seems to see or wants to see, but I see a second Black Death plague shortly hitting the residents in the area,” Blake says.

He adds the homeless people have set up shelters in the vicinity.

“They have done what seems to me like legal land-grabbing as shelters of all kinds have sprung up under and around Lansdowne bridge. What was scary is that, since my last visit and email, this situation has escalated under the eyes and noses of residents, commuters, churchgoers, customers and businesses,” he adds.

Blake says he arranged for an inspection in the area on Friday.

Metrorail spokesperson Riana Scott says they have received a complaint.

“We receive periodic complaints about vagrancy at several stations, including Mowbray, Plumstead, Lansdowne and Woodstock.

“Metrorail regularly removes vagrants from rail precincts with the assistance of railway police and will continue to address the situation as best it can with the resources at its disposal,” Scott says.

She adds the City of Cape Town’s displaced peoples unit (DPU), local community police forums and city improvement districts usually collaborate with Metrorail’s protection services officials and contracted security firms to remove vagrants in railway areas.

“The DPU assists with finding alternative accommodation for vagrants as they are particularly vulnerable to ­wily criminals who lure them into crime with all manner of promises. Residents are encouraged to report vagrancy to the DPU,” she says.

“We call on the City of Cape Town to expedite the process in the interest of all parties. Effective town planning, law enforcement and economic measures to mitigate the general socio-economic circumstances can assist in the reduction of vagrancy.
“Until such time as adequate facilities are made available to the city’s vagrants, the problem will merely be shifted from one party to another,” Scott says.
She adds fencing at train stations is only a way of demarcating but will not deter homeless people from loitering on the property.
“Vagrants living in rail reserves must be relocated to alternative sites through a legal process.
“We rely on the City of Cape Town to identify suitable land for the relocation of dwellers before the legal process of eviction and relocation can commence,” Scott says.

To report issues of vagrancy to the displaced people’s unit contact 021 596 1999 or 0800 225 669.

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