Budget boost for homeless winter programme

2015-06-10 21:20
(File, Shutterstock)

(File, Shutterstock)

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Responsible giving: is giving money to homeless people the real problem?

2015-05-21 10:46

The City of Cape Town's Give Responsibly campaign is aimed at encouraging residents to make donations to organisations created to work with street people. Is this the best approach? Watch.WATCH

Cape Town - All Maureen’s possession fit into one bright yellow shopping bag.

She clutches her goods as she walks through the streets of Cape Town, trying to make a quick buck “for something to drink”.

Her love of the bottle is the reason Maureen, 53, prefers to brave the elements and sleep on the city streets.

“When you go to the shelter and you just had a couple of glasses, they treat you badly,” she said. “It’s easy for them to look down on you, but they don’t realise I need my bottle to keep me going.”

Winter is a tough time for the Robertson native.

She moved to Cape Town 15 years ago after her husband was imprisoned and her then two-year-old daughter was taken in by social services on suspicion of neglect.

Her boyfriend, Charlie, keeps trying to convince her to give up her liquor, she lamented.

“He wants us to sleep at the shelter but they try to keep us apart,” Maureen said, as women and men sleep in separate quarters of the facilities.

But she admits that on the odd occasion she accompanies him to a shelter, she loves being dry and warm for just one night.

Double budget

The City of Cape Town this week announced it had doubled its budget for its winter readiness programme to assist street people from R280 000 in 2014 to just over R600 000. 

The programme sees aid in the form of blankets, mattresses, non-perishable food and toiletries distributed to 17 NGOs to increase their capacity to deal with the number of street people seeking shelter and assistance during the winter months. 

Bed space at shelters is funded by provincial government.

Mayoral committee member for social development and early childhood development Suzette Little said the weather service has predicted above normal rainfall and lower than normal maximum temperatures into early spring.

“The shelters are going to be extremely busy. We hope that our winter programme will help to lighten the load and put the shelters in a position to assist every person who needs help.”

Fieldworkers are deployed by council to engage with street people and facilitate access to services that they may require. 

A reintegration unit also helps street people return to their homes if they so choose and to ensure that they have the necessary support to prevent a return to the streets.


Little urges residents to preferably make donations to organisations which assist street people rather than to hand it over to a homeless person.

“Parting with some loose change at an intersection or outside the mall keeps that individual on the street and therefore vulnerable to the elements.” 

In Darling Street, Ricardo patiently guides motorists to park their vehicles on the side of the road.

He politely introduces himself, promising that when the driver returns his vehicle will still be “tip top”.

Originally from Elsies River, the 25-year-old has been on the streets for six weeks after being released from prison.

He spent ten years behind bars for kidnapping a girl on instruction from high ranking members of the gang he belonged to.

“All I need to make is R12 for a bed at the shelter,” he explained as he runs up to the owner of a luxury car unlocking his door.

The man hands him a R2, and Ricardo bows in gratitude.

“I don’t want to sleep in the cold, or lie awake because the rain is falling in my face. 

“But while it’s tough when you have to lie under a flimsy and wet blanket with one eye open in case someone tries to steal your stuff, it beats spending years in the cells.”

His father died while he was behind bars and his mother has disowned him because, he admits, he “wasn’t a good man”.

'I have plans'

“But this is something I needed. I may be at the bottom now, but I have plans. 

“I am poor, but I’m not stupid. I am going to find a job and work my way up, like Will Smith in ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’.”

A Muslim man wearing a thobe gets out of his car, and Ricardo pushes a fez forward on his head as he runs over to introduce himself.

“Salaam, sir, I am Rafiq,” he said, promising to take good care of “boeta’s nice Lexus”.

He explained that Muslim customers “tip well because it is good in the eyes of Allah for them to help their brothers”.

“I don’t think I’m a conman,” Ricardo insisted when asked about his dishonesty.

“We do what we need to do to survive. If I want to eat tonight and sleep comfortably, I must do what I can.”

Shelters under pressure

Shelters are under pressure in the rainy months as more feet make their way to facilities such as The Haven, CEO Hassan Khan explained.

And as State funding only covers one third of their costs, shelters need all the help they can get.

“Our aim is to help get the homeless into homes,” Khan said.

“It’s also about finding long term solutions for street people. We aim to restore dignity and self-respect.”

He refers to those who seek The Haven’s services as “clients” as people pay R12 per day for the facility’s services.

The first five days are free and payment is expected from the sixth day.

Should the client not be by the means to pay, they are given odd jobs at the shelter or with a local NGO.

Khan said the facility had been able to survive for 36 years through donations from businesses and the public, and echoed the city’s call for the public to give responsibly.

“Handouts enable the person to stay on the street. But by giving through the correct channels, you provide the individual with the opportunity to change their life.”

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