People's Post

More beds ‘not the solution’: NGO says City of Cape Town's plan still falls short

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Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis recently visited the Culemborg Safe Space 2 in the CBD where the City added around 120 new beds. PHOTO: City of cape town
Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis recently visited the Culemborg Safe Space 2 in the CBD where the City added around 120 new beds. PHOTO: City of cape town

The City of Cape Town announced recently that it plans to add 330 more shelter beds and two new Safe Spaces to alleviate homelessness in Cape Town but an Observatory-based organisation believes this is not sustainable and says it doesn’t solve the issue of people living on the street.

Last week, the City said it plans to renovate two municipal-owned sites to be used as Safe Spaces in the coming months “to expand dignified transitional shelter and help more people off the streets in Cape Town”.

The earmarked sites are located in Green Point and Durbanville.

The planning approval process will include an opportunity for any affected parties to comment.

The 300-bed Safe Space on the cards for Green Point is to be accommodated in an underutilised portion of the City’s roads depot situated under the fly-over bridge on Ebenezer Road.

With around 120 shelter beds already added to the City’s Culemborg Safe Space in the east of the CBD during winter last year, this will mean a 420-bed boost for Cape Town’s inner city in total.

The new beds will bring Safe Space capacity up to 1 060 beds across several facilities in the CBD, Bellville and Durbanville.

ALSO READ | City of Cape Town allocates R900 million to fast track housing projects

Carlos Mesquita, founder of CM Homeless Consultant and Homeless Solutions, an organisation that aims to end homelessness, says even though the City’s plans sound “positive” he believes the City is “setting people up for an even greater disappointment” with the expectations it’s creating.

Mesquita says: “I have been homeless. I know both sides. My concern begins when the mayor says that they will be expanding on their ‘transitional shelter beds’. The City currently has no ‘transitional’ shelter beds. The City has entry-phase, emergency and temporary bed spaces both at the Safe Spaces as well as at the NGO-run operations and therein lies one of my greatest concerns.”

Mesquita believes homelessness can be solved.

“I believe that any city can end chronic homelessness. All it takes is the political will and an entire societal willingness and commitment to support and participate in this process.

“I also believe Cape Town to be the only city in the world that, should it stop the bus now and really and truly decide to address this issue in a revolutionary way, could pave the way for others to follow.”

In Durbanville, a 30-bed Safe Space in the new Durbanville Public Transport Interchange (PTI) development is in the pipeline.

According to the City, both the Green Point and Durbanville proposals will now follow the full regulatory and planning process before being implemented. This will include a public participation process.

Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis says: “Over the last year, we have shifted the City’s policy to care interventions designed to help people off the streets on a sustainable basis. This is on the clear understanding that our city’s public spaces serve important economic and community needs.

“No person has the right to reserve a public space as exclusively theirs, while indefinitely refusing all offers of shelter and social assistance. Accepting social assistance to leave the streets is the best choice for dignity, health and well-being.”

Hill-Lewis says more new beds will follow as the City works to help expand NGO-run shelters operating on municipal-owned land in central Cape Town, as well as the annual seasonal bed boost as part of the City’s winter readiness campaign 2023.

Mesquita feels the City’s budget used for the winter readiness campaign should be better utilised.

“Use that budget to do the first ever proper, reliable count of those living on the streets in Cape Town and do proper assessments of those individuals. They all have their own individual stories of how they landed up on the streets, their own unique journey on the streets and unique needs to come off the streets.”

He adds: “These will only be accurate and of value if you allow those with lived experience to lead such a study.

“With that data in hand, you can then determine the services required in order to have a lasting impact on reducing chronic homelessness in Cape Town.”

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