Residents in Kensington and Factreton have drawn up a petition to prevent a community multi-purpose centre, which has operated in the area for more than 70 years, from closing its doors.The Students Health and Welfare Centres Organisation (Shawco) was founded in 1943 at the University of Cape Town (UCT) and works to develop informed, healthy and thriving communities. Shawco aims to promote responsible citizenship by enrolling student volunteers in health, education and social entrepreneurship initiatives across the Cape Flats. According to residents, the future of the centre in 12th Avenue, Kensington, now hangs in the balance. Kevin Alexander, a community leader who is actively involved at the centre, says: “Shawco closed down some of their centres recently in other communities like Nyanga and Khayelitsha. Most of their staff members also received retrenchment letters while others resigned. “At our last meeting with the Shawco operations manager, she indicated that she can only assure us that Shawco would remain open until at least June.”Alexander adds that he drew up the petition to get the residents involved. “My reason for the petition is to voice how strongly we feel about the vital role of having Shawco in our community. “I wanted 500 signatures by Sunday 15 March. We currently have more than 1000.”He says a creche, a second-hand clothing store, a food programme and several other community-based organisations are run from the centre. “Our children and vulnerable residents are in need of this multi-purpose centre,” explains Alexander. Dr Judith Cornell, Shawco’s interim director, has given the assurance to People’s Post that the centre is not closing. “No, the Kensington Centre is not closing down. Shawco’s educational activities in Kensington and elsewhere have been scaled down until mid-2020 in response to funding constraints.” She adds that the tenants are safe and that new rental agreements will be issued shortly. Cornell visited the centre on Thursday 12 March where she met with staff and tenants. Alexander, however, says the community is still not convinced and adds that no information is being relayed to them. “We want them to be honest with us. We don’t want a situation where we will be told one morning that the doors are closing. They need to put things on paper first.“The Kensington and Factreton communities were largely developed on the foundation of the centre. Shawco is to Kensington and Factreton, what Table Mountain is to Cape Town,” adds Alexander. Cornell has agreed to interact with the tenants and says “they will have the opportunity to discuss concerns, face-to-face”.