GrandWest staff spends a night in the cold

Almost 80 people received warm meals at Elim Night Shelter in Elsies River from a soup kitchen funded by GrandWest on Thursday July 28.

On the same night, GrandWest’s general manager, Mervyn Naidoo, and about 100 staff had a Sympathy SleepOut in the parking lot of GrandWest Casino in support of the CEO SleepOut international charity initiative. Staff from the Table Bay Hotel also joined the occasion.

Mr Naidoo said: “The visit to Elim Night Shelter gave us a chance to show solidarity with the many people that are less fortunate than what we are, and it highlights how much we take for granted.”

He said the Sympathy SleepOut was about creating awareness and empathy for the homeless.

The initiative, which raises funds to help the homeless, was held for the first time in South Africa in Johannesburg last year and raised R26 million in one night.

CEO SleepOut is a global humanitarian initiative first launched in Australia 11 years ago.

This year, the focus is on education. The money raised, about

R31 million in Johannesburg, will be handed over to beneficiaries who are involved in providing education opportunities such as bursaries, scholarship programmes, early childhood care and education facilities for disadvantaged youth.

The beneficiaries are the Steve Biko Foundation, the ASHA Trust and the Columba Foundation.

Blankets, beanies, scarves and sleeping bags donated by GrandWest will be handed over to homeless people across the city.

However, while the CEOs were “roughing it” in Johannesburg on Thursday July 28, the EFF condemned the exercise.

Peter Keetse, spokesman for the EFF Students Command said: “It is no secret that most of the companies from which these CEOs come from are built and maintained by exploiting our people and keeping them poor.

“A more noble cause worth celebrating would have been CEOs taking a unanimous decision to give their workers a fair minimum wage, ensure all their workers have similar benefits to them and radically changing the working conditions under which their workers work.”

Margaret Jacobs, 35, who sleeps in Vasco Boulevard, Vasco said she was happy to some extent that people cared about street people.

“It is nice to know that people care about us, and that they sympathise with us. Some of us are on the road because we have no other option,” said Ms Jacobs.

She said even though life on the streets is a lot more gruelling than what the CEOs had experienced, she was glad they were at least giving some thought to homeless people’s plight .

“People usually look at us like we are a nuisance on the streets, but we are also just trying to make a living,” said Ms Jacobs,

Johnny Smith, 56, said he had ended up on the streets after he moved to Cape Town five years ago.

He moves around Goodwood and Parow, searching for safe places to sleep.

He felt the CEO SleepOut was a good initiative, but it didn’t come close to the harsh reality he experiences.