Plan in place to purge vagrancy

2019-01-29 06:00

During a sitting of subcouncil 18 on Thursday 24 January, the City of Cape Town’s Social Development Department unveiled its plans for street people in the area.

The focus areas will be in hotspots such as Busy Corner, the post office, Victoria Road and surrounding areas, while numerous complaints relating to vagrancy have been made at Fisherman’s Walk.

Field officers in the area will be responsible for outreach work, while also responding to complaints within their area of interest, while reintegration officers are tasked with helping vagrants who willingly seek help to return to their families, or if extra resources need to be called upon to help them sustain themselves.

“We are going to engage with the vagrants to explain what the City offers – we need to start there. We need to take a no-nonsense approach, meaning that there is an opportunity for them to go through some rehabilitation. We can get them a job or help them to get them to where they want, but we don’t want them to sleep there. If they don’t want to take that opportunity, unfortunately they are also not allowed to sleep there. We need to tell them what the City can offer as well as the consequences if they don’t make use of it, but they are not going to squat anymore – that is the approach we need to take,” says subcouncil 18 chairperson and councillor for the Grassy Park CBD Shanen Rossouw.

She is aware of the sensitivity which may need to be adopted and laments that not all cases can be dealt with in the same manner.

“We need to deal with the vagrants at Lewis Stores (Busy Corner) differently to those at the post office. I was told by my neighbourhood watches that there is more of a gangster element who are sleeping at Lewis Stores. I went to the police and asked them to assist with profiling them. We are going to have a meeting with the vagrants and the officials, then I am going to have a meeting with all the safety agencies – the police, Law Enforcement, CPFs, neighbourhood watches – on the way forward in dealing with the vagrants. My neighbourhood watches told me straight out that they are not going to put their lives in danger, because they are not the usual vagrants, like those sleeping at the post office,” Rossouw adds.

The City’s Street People Unit has dealt with 145 complaints relating to vagrancy in the period from June to December last year, with six joint operations conducted, resulting in one person being relocated.

In a report tabled at the meeting, the department’s Lorraine Frost cites various challenges, including a lack of manpower available to them, which she says “limits the amount of outreach and relationship building that can occur as complaints from the public take priority”.

Rossouw adds that cameras in the area can help identify how vagrants go about setting up their temporary structures, which keep disappearing overnight or reappear even after Law Enforcement has conducted an intervention.

“We need to have that footage so that we can show the officials what is happening over there. I promise you, within five minutes, Marita Peterson was there. Where they store the stuff I don’t know. I went onto the roof myself and there was nothing there. I asked the guys to open the drains and there was nothing there. Where do they get the stuff? Now on the camera footage you will then be able to pick it up.”

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