FEEL GOOD | For the homeless, Cape Town garden changes their lives for the better

2020-02-04 07:06
The Streetscapes garden in Vredehoek offers employment and social interventions for homeless people (Liezl Human, GroundUp)

The Streetscapes garden in Vredehoek offers employment and social interventions for homeless people (Liezl Human, GroundUp) (Liezl Human)

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Archiebold Zolile Ndindwa moved to Van Riebeeck Park near Cape Town's city centre after he could no longer afford to pay his rent in Langa, GroundUp reported.

For many homeless people, finding work is hard, even harder if they are without documents. But with help of Streetscapes, Ndindwa recently obtained his ID and can now receive a disability grant. (He was in an accident in 1987 that left him with a back injury.)

The Streetscapes garden in Vredehoek, where Ndindwa has been working since last year, assists homeless people through simple interventions, such as helping them get their IDs.

Many homeless people, who were living next to a stream in Van Riebeeck Park, have been integrated into the Streetscapes gardening programme, a collaboration between Streetscapes, Vredehoek-based DPV Watch, the City of Cape Town, and Friends of Rugley Road Park - a residents' association.

Streetscapes sells its garden produce to walk-in customers and has arrangements with four restaurants in the area. It sells potted succulents and a variety of vegetables, such as butternut, spinach, and tomatoes.

Balbalwa Bangani
Streetcapes garden supervisor Babalwa Bangani. (Liezl Human, GroundUp)

Streetscapes garden's supervisor Vredehoek, Babalwa Bangani, said: "I found out that all those people [living in the park] have two things in common: They wanted jobs and they needed shelter. I approached them and when a person showed an interest and wanted to work, then I would give them an opportunity."

Bangani said if they stuck to the rules for the two-month probation, Streetscapes would then send them to a social worker at Khulisa Social Solutions for them to apply for a job in the garden.

Streetscapes' project director, Jesse Laitinen, said the two-month period was a "test period to see if they are committed to work-based rehabilitation. And if they are, they get signed up for the programme".

Streetscapes is part of Khulisa Social Solutions, a non-profit organisation that offers social services to the vulnerable in society.

Bangani said the Streetscapes programme also helped its volunteers and employees to obtain IDs, creating and uploading CVs, using the internet, and showing where they could attend short courses.

"We started the initiative because they were really vulnerable people living in a very wealthy area," Laitinen said.

She added Streetscapes had helped more than 300 homeless people since 2015. There are currently 70 people in the programme this year.

"It all starts with having an ID. It's first an ID and then it is a roof over your head… When you're on the street, everything gets lost. You also get lost. Your life gets lost," said Jerome Daniels who works at the garden.

"You have to have an ID, otherwise it is as if you don't exist. It opens doors for you; you can do nothing without an ID," said Fiona Swartz who lives in Van Riebeeck Park.

She added she understood residents complained about homeless people "because they think people who live on the street are usually criminals, that they are dirty and that they have no education".

"I would have probably had the same idea in my mind if the roles were reversed," Swartz said.

She added, however, some Vredehoek residents brought them food.

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