Public spaces a cause for concern

2019-12-03 06:00
Despite being fenced, Douglas Place in Woodstock remains a problem area.PHOTO: Nomzamo Yuku

Despite being fenced, Douglas Place in Woodstock remains a problem area.PHOTO: Nomzamo Yuku

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Prostitution and dealing in drugs – these are some of the social ills Lower Woodstock residents have to contend with at several public spaces in their neighbourhood.

These spaces include Douglas Place, Fairview Road Park, Queens Park, Beyers Road Park and the privately owned land in Pine Road, which is just below the City-owned land in the same road.

A range of illegal activities is allegedly being committed by homeless people who reportedly have invaded these areas.

Although some of the spaces are cleaned from time to time, residents say the City of Cape Town needs to enforce the law and introduce sustainable solutions.

When People’s Post visited the area, it looked fairly clean.

A group of homeless people were carrying on with their lives. They were not bothered by the presence of other people.

At Queens Park, some homeless people carried their belongings with them, while others were in deep sleep.

Fairview and Beyers Parks were clean with a few visitors looking relaxed in the shade and some enjoying the park equipment.

The same cannot be said about the privately owned land in Pine Road. The area is filled with shacks and the fence is broken.

Resident Shireen McWhite accuses the homeless people of using the spaces like their homes.

She claims they not only use the space for illegal activities but to loiter and to sleep. She says the problem has been on the rise over the past five years and has become a threat to residents.

“We have written to the ward councillor and the C3 platform on several occasions but nothing is done,” says McWhite.

She says, once in a while, the City will clean the spaces but that does not solve their problems.

“We need permanent solutions,” she says.

McWhite accuses the City of doing an incomplete job at Douglas Place.

She says fencing was put up four months ago without a gate. It was only installed on Friday 29 November.

One of the homeless people, Dimitri Adams, says he has lived in most of the public spaces and keeps moving around to avoid problems.

Adams grew up in Woodstock but, due to circumstances, he ended up on the streets, he says.

“There are usually a lot of people complaining about homeless people. But what can we do? This is our life and the stuff we carry around is important to us. It is what we survive on,” Adams says.

Asked if anything could be done to make things better and improve their relations with the community, he says:

“Honestly, there is nothing that can be done; we are not all the same and some are more comfortable here than anywhere else.

“If anything has to be done, it has to start with the willingness from each and everyone that is here.”

Adams says he understands people are uncomfortable with their presence in the area but says most homeless people have no devious intentions.

“We just live in the streets,” he says.

Dave Bryant, councillor for ward 115, says Pine Road properties and Douglas Place are in the process of being transferred to the Social Housing Company (SOHCO).

He says the City’s human settlements department is currently mowing and clearing the spaces and they have fenced off its sites in Pine Road.

According to Bryant, funding has been provided from the ward allocation budget earlier this year to fence a section of Douglas Place following security concerns.

“The fencing has been installed, but an objection was received regarding the type of gate that was proposed and this is in the process of being procured by the City.

“It must be noted that these sites have been under the management of the human settlements department for a number of years which has complicated the process of cleaning and clearing as this department has been responsible for these aspects and not the other departments that usually undertake these operations,” explains Bryant.

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