Homeless coin it in Kenridge

Stop giving “irresponsibly” to people on the streets – this message was emphasised during a recent meeting in Kenridge.

The public meeting by the Kenridge The Hills Ratepayers’ Association (KHRPA) on Tuesday June 20 was aimed at addressing concerns of residents regarding the growing number of homeless people in the area.

Areas that have been identified as hot spots include the Dutch Reformed Church in Kenridge, Tygerberg Valley Road, the Door De Kraal dam and Majik Forest.

And while homeless people in the area were a point of discussion, the issue of residents giving irresponsibly was a contentious one.

KHRPA vice-chairman Ian Flint said about half of the area’s residents were giving to homeless people – and this was the problem the ratepayers were currently facing.

“Giving donations keeps the homeless on the streets and in our areas – we need to get this message across to our neighbours and friends,” he said.

A resident whose property borders Tygerberg Valley Road complained about the noise the homeless people are making after hours, saying it has been like that for months with no action being taken.

Ward 70 councillor Andrea Crous said residents were still giving food, clothes, and even tents, which only perpetuated the situation. “Everyone must work together to save our area from deteriorating,” she said.

JP Smith, mayoral committee member for safety and security and social services told Northern News that the City was aware of the problems in the area and had been engaging with the street people since December 2014. However, the services that the department offered had been refused on a continual basis.

Peter Cookson from the City’s social development department told residents that he too would roam the streets of Durbanville and Kenridge if he were homeless. Mr Cookson said he witnessed on one occasion how a homeless person made about R300 at the robots on Tygerberg Valley Road in less than an hour, in addition to groceries.

He spoke about one homeless person “Lyle” who he had been trying to assist for two years but he simply refused, saying he could make more money working the streets than being part of the City’s Expanded Public Works Department Programme (EPWP).

Mr Cookson emphasised that the City could not force anyone to take part in its programme and they could therefore only offer assistance.

This, however, did not sit well with residents who questioned what the City was actually doing to deal with homelessness and if they had any plans to amend current by-laws. They complained that cases involving homeless people were often scrapped from the court roll as homeless people did not have an address and the police would release them without bail.

“Homeless people are multiplying by the day. Why can’t the City spend money on addressing this issue?” a resident said.

A 2015 survey by the City found just over 7 000 people living or sleeping on the street or in shelters. The data revealed that 79% of street people were men and 21% women and that nearly three-quarters of them were aged between 26 and 45.

Mr Smith said homelessness was not unique to Cape Town and the City therefore had to manage rights of street people and those of the rest of the population.

“Street people cannot and should not be marginalised, and neither can the daily complaints from across the city relating to the impact that street people have on the lives of others be ignored,” he said.

Mr Smith said the City’s field workers and Reintegration Unit engaged with street people every day to find out why they ended up on the street, conducted a needs assessment, and offered assistance (which is voluntary). Those accepting assistance are referred to shelters, reunited with their families and offered Expanded Public Works Programme job opportunities.

“However, many street people decline our assistance and we cannot force them to accept the services offered, nor do we have a legal mandate to remove a person.” Regarding by-laws, Mr Smith said street people were entitled to freedom of movement as outlined in the Bill of Rights and that it was not illegal to be homeless.

“However, like everyone else, street people are expected to abide by the laws of the country and the by-laws of the City – particularly the by-law relating to streets, public places and prevention of noise nuisances which prohibits certain behaviours.”

Mr Smith said the City’s law enforcement officers could not issue fines or arrest homeless people.

GiveWise founder and social worker Lucinda Valentine said residents needed to realise that homelessness was not only a “Kenridge issue” but impacted surrounding areas as well. She said a plan was needed and suggested holding a think tank to get plans in motion. Ms Valentine also stressed the importance of a communication plan – which had to be consistent.

George Narkedien, the manager of The Haven Night Shelter-Bellville, said they have also latched on to the Give Responsibly campaign – through the passports which people can buy and give out to homeless people, which secures them a place to sleep.The shelter provides temporary shelter, social welfare and family re-unification services to adult homeless people across the metro.

He encourage residents to follow the principles of the City’s Give Responsibly campaign, which encouraged donations to organisations that assist street people in the long-term.

Northern News previously spoke to Eugene Andrews, who has been living on the streets of Durbanville for the past five years.(“D4J starts voucher system for homeless,” Northern News, May 18). Mr Andrews said he often got food from passing motorists and from residents who left food on their bins.

Jason Claasen, 24, has been on the streets for 10 years. He said Durbanville residents threw away a lot of things that still had value. He rummages through their bins to find things to sell.

Peter Lourens, the City’s principal inspector of law enforcement, encouraged residents to continue logging complaints via the epic system. Mr Lourens said they, however, only have 18 law enforcement officers – who we were deployed according to complaints.

He urged residents to stop giving homeless people food, money and clothing – adding that he was aware that people felt sorry for them but that it was only making the situation worse.

Mr Flint said the ratepayers would come together and go through all the information discussed at the meeting and work out a plan for the way forward.