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Safe Space celebrates four years

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The Culemborg 1 Safe Space in the City centre celebrates four years. PHOTO: city of cape town
The Culemborg 1 Safe Space in the City centre celebrates four years. PHOTO: city of cape town

The Culemborg 1 Safe Space in the Cape Town City Centre celebrated its fourth anniversary on Wednesday 29 June.

The overnight facility was trialled in 2018 as a pilot project to provide temporary shelter for people living on the street and has since seen thousands of people passing through its doors.

As a result, two more City-run safe spaces were opened.

The Culemborg space can accommodate 230 people at a time and offers ablution facilities, secure storage for personal belongings and access to developmental and other rehabilitation programmes.

Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis says they are expanding the safe space concept beyond the CBD and Bellville.

“The safe space has always been about offering care to those in need. We’re expanding these safe spaces beyond the CBD and Bellville too, so that more residents have a warm, dry space to rest, receive meals and be connected to City services such as employment opportunities, rehabilitation and reintegration with their families.”

Hill-Lewis says with the lifting of the remaining Covid-19 restrictions, they can now operate the safe spaces at full capacity.

“We are also adding 150 beds at the neighbouring Safe Space 2 in line with the expansion of our care programme and to demonstrate our commitment to the dignity and well-being of all our residents.”

Patricia van der Ross, Mayco member for community services and health, says: “It has not been an easy journey, and there are still many challenges, but I think it is also important to recognise the good work that has been done at this and our other Safe Spaces.”

She says the City had no blueprint when it opened the facility, and was faced with a global pandemic on top of it.

“Yet here we are, four years later, still assisting clients who want to move off the streets, learning as we go along and working very hard to further replicate the safe space model in other parts of Cape Town, so that we can assist even more people.”

Van der Ross says in the past 12 months, the facility assisted about 450 clients, including:

  • 42 clients reunified with their families;
  • 45 clients coached and supported into the next phase of their reintegration;
  • 32 permanent employment opportunities;
  • 56 short-term work opportunities through the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP);
  • 87 clients who attended the substance abuse treatment programme at the City’s Matrix® sites;
  • one client who attended a six-week substance abuse programme at the Saltun Bauer Centre;
  • Sassa grants for 27 clients;
  • 62 individuals assisted with Identity Documents; and
  • 1 074 training and development programme opportunities on-site.

Carlos Mesquita, owner of CM Homeless Consultant and Homeless Solutions, is a former resident of Culemborg Safe Space 2.

He says while he thinks the concept of safe spaces is beneficial to people living on the street, he feels more attention should be given to the external service providers who manage these facilities.

“There are often good reasons why people living on the street do not want to go to a shelter or safe space. The tender process for service providers should be re-looked. The City should make sure that the service providers are equipped to assist people who are living on the street.

“Their aim should be to ensure that people do not end up back on the street.”

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