A safe space for a union

2018-10-16 06:02
Carmel Jones administers a health check to Danny Oosthuizen. PHOTO: City of Cape Town

Carmel Jones administers a health check to Danny Oosthuizen. PHOTO: City of Cape Town

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World Homeless Day was commemorated at the City of Cape Town’s Safe Space on Wednesday 10 October.

The day aims to draw attention to the needs of street people and to provide opportunities for communities to get involved in responding to homelessness, explains Mayco member for safety, security and social services, JP Smith.

“Homelessness is a worldwide phenomenon, although the challenges can vary from city to city. In Cape Town, we have realised that due to shortcomings in national legislation, law enforcement as it relates to street people is ineffective in that we cannot issue fines or arrest them to appear in court in relation to these charges. It is for this reason that we are focusing more on what we can do to mitigate the risks of people ending up on the street and we are working closely with those who want to get off the street,” Smith said at the event.

The events at the Safe Space saw hundreds of street people accessing a host of services, as well as a talent search and the venue’s second wedding in as many months.

But, Smith said, combatting homelessness remains a collective effort, with the focus on reuniting street people with their loved ones.

“Reintegration remains our number one priority, and the City’s Culemborg Safe Space has been a big step in that direction. In the three and a half months since it’s opened its gates, we have already had numerous success stories and even a few fairytales as couples tied the knot and embarked on new journeys together.”

A myriad of social issues can contribute to homelessness, whether physical or mental illness; a breakdown in family ties; physical, sexual or substance abuse; unemployment and more, Smith said.

“Linked to that is how we assist street people. A traffic light donation is often the quick fix for many, but it does nothing for the long-term welfare of the street person. So we need to start having serious conversations about how we responsibly support street people and contribute to the ultimate goal of ensuring their reintegration.”

The City’s Social Development Department will also embark on a headcount of street people in the coming months, Smith said.

“The last count was conducted in 2015 and so we need to determine whether there has been a change in the number of street people living on the streets and in shelters. The information we gather will enable us to determine whether our current interventions are making a difference. The count will cover the entire metropole, including 37 hotspot areas for street people. A team of field workers will be trained to do the headcount, working closely with the Reintegration Unit. The methodology for the headcount is being drafted and will be finalised within the next few weeks. The findings will inform our street people programmes and social outreach going forward­.”

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