Call for help for homeless

Veronica, Deidre and Clive Morris.

As winter starts to grip Cape Town, a Bellville charity is calling on the public to support a campaign helping the homeless.

The annual Hope for Winter campaign, from Friday June 1 to Saturday June 30, calls for donations of warm clothes, blankets and food as well as support for the city’s homeless shelters.

“The cold winter months in our country remain particularly challenging for poor families and the homeless person on the street,” said Reverend Alan Childs, CEO of Mould Empower Serve (MES).

“There is a great need for shelter, warm clothes and food. With the Hope for Winter campaign, we try to address this in a practical way.”

Last year, the campaign collected more than 4 000 blankets and almost 1 500 beanies as well as 5 000 shopping bags of clothes and non-perishable food.

The City will give MES’s Safe Space in Bellville, along with other shelters, extra winter aid, including food, blankets, mattresses and toiletries, to cater for the expected influx of homeless people to these facilities.

The shelter at AJ West Street opened in May last year and has been a nightly refuge to 45 men and 15 women, who would have slept on the streets otherwise.

Neil Villet was one of the Safe Space’s first clients. He said he had felt a sense of relief when sleeping at the centre for the first time in four years of living on the streets.

Mr Villet used to sleep at various hospitals at night until security guards noticed him and kicked him out. Living on the streets had been a horrifying experience, he said. “I don’t wish it upon anyone.”

The MES shelter, he said, was safe and warm and gave him sense of hope.

“This is a place where I can be at peace after everything I had encountered in the last four years. The services provided here give us all a sense of belonging and pride. It’s convenient because you can shower, have lunch and have a session with the social workers. I don’t see the safe space as my new home, but it is the perfect go between.”

Gideon Kotze has been part of MES’s Grow Programme, teaching the homeless how to work for their money, for the past four years. After losing his job, Mr Kotze lost not only his family but his home. After some time in the Grow programme, he is now able to rent a room in a home and continues working with MES.

Veronica and Clive Morris were at MES for the second time, wanting to get something to eat. They first learnt about MES at court after getting arrested for stealing food.

“That was the first time we did something like that, but we were hungry,” said Ms Morris.

She said they weren’t homeless, but times had been tough, and often they could not afford to buy food.

Ms Morris said she was grateful for the warm meal and welcome they got from the staff at MES.

But it’s not just those on society’s margins who have been helped by MES over the years. The charity’s staff have also learnt a lot along the way.

Joseph Fredericks started with Bellville Care Mission in 2005, which was registered as a MES branch in 2008.

Mr Fredericks said he had had a “complete life changing experience” while working at MES. “Working with people has blessed me so much, and to see them grow is something money can’t buy. Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of working with many special people. They influenced and helped shape my life,” he said.

* For more information on the Hope campaign, visit www.winterhoop.org

Support the Safe Space by buying vouchers, donating blankets, socks, scarves, gloves, underwear and toiletries. Contact 021 949 8736 or prcapetown@mes.org.za