Christmas came early for more than 170 homeless people in Kuils River recently.
A Kuils River firefighter John van Wyk hosted a pre-Christmas braai for more than 200 homeless people near the corner of Station and Fabriek streets.
He has been donating food to the homeless since 2003. After seeing growing homelessness in the area in the early 2000s, he asked the local fire station to help him donate braaied food once a year.
Mr Van Wyk’s colleagues, from as far as Belhar, rolled up on Station Street in a fire truck to donate additional braai food.
Other firefighters came from Sir Lowry’s Pass.
Groups of homeless people gathered around Fabriek Street from as early as 9am waiting for meals, which were dished up at 11am.
Dawie Martins, a homeless man who does odd jobs in Kuils River, said the event meant a lot to him and his friends.
“If you drive around Kuils River, you will see there are a lot of homeless people. Some of them may not know there was a braai here today, but we greatly appreciate it. You feel discarded from society when you’re homeless. This event is more than just food. It’s a touch to show us there are people who care.”
Mr Van Wyk, who has worked as a fireman for 27 years, said: “Initially we planned to feed 200 people, but about 176 showed up. The event was more than a success.”
The firefighters encountered a homeless 6-year old boy who had had a birthday the day before, and Caroline Frasenburg, a firefighter from Sir Lowry’s Pass, went to buy a cake and organised the party packs for the children of the homeless.
Mr Van Wyk said: “My heart has always gone out to these people because just imagine a Christmas on the street.”
“It makes me feel very good being able to give back to the community. Organising the meals was stressful because there was a constant worry I won’t be able to feed as many as I want. I had sleepless nights the day before.”
Mr Van Wyk said being a homeless person comes with trauma. “Nobody wants to help them. And some of these people used to be homeowners,” he said.