Mixed response to relocation of homeless

The Kuils River farm allows vagrants to work and live on the farm safely.

There has been mixed reaction to the news that homeless people from the Cape Town central business district have been relocated to a Kuils River farm in Joubert Street.

This is after a CBD-based NGO, Khulisa Solutions, introduced their city-wide projects at an event in Roeland Street on Friday July 26.

One of the projects offers homeless people the opportunity to integrate into society. The relocation to the Sarepta farm is called
Streetscapes, one of the newest additions to their projects.

According to the organisation they are leasing the farm from the City of Cape Town and only spend R5 000 for rates and electricity.

On the 5.5ha plot is a building which is used as a safe house for the 10 people who moved to the farm last December.

The organisation built three dorm rooms for men, women and children, as well as a workshop and a farm for homeless people to work and live safely. There are also two bathrooms and a lounge.

Strategic partnerships manager at Khulisa Solutions, Jesse Laitinen, said 28 homeless people had joined the project about a year ago. More than half of them are still part of the programme, about a third were promoted to assistant supervisors or found work elsewhere, two people returned to their homes, one had died, and eight percent dropped out.

Kuils River resident, Jonathan Maree said he welcomed the homeless, particularly if the project brought about a positive changes in their lives.

“Some people think that the homeless are illiterate or dirty but they are just regular people like us. Farming will be therapeutic and keep their minds clear,” he said.

But Sidney van der Colf questioned why the homeless people sleeping outside supermarkets in Kuils River, had not been considered to be part of the project.

“Why can’t our homeless women and children in areas like Kalkfontein be beneficiaries of the project” he asked.

Felecia Beukes said she feared that if recovering drug addicts on the farm encountered drug addicts from the community, they may “fall back into bad habits.”

Ms Laitinen, however, said the people living on the farm were all drug-free and are rehabilitated.

She added that those involved in the initiative were not only from the CBD, and that there were also people from Brackenfell and Bellville who had joined Khulisa more than 10 years ago.

“Being placed on the farm means that you have committed to be part of Khulisa’s projects-long term. It does not just happen overnight,” she said.

Northern News sent a list of questions to the City, but by the time this edition went to print, they had not yet responded.

SUCCESS STORIES

Three Streetscape beneficiaries shared their stories of success.

Christiana Solomons has been working at the Streetscape Garden in Roeland Street for four years. She said she had been a drug addict, but was sober for eight months, thanks to the programme.

“I was on the streets for six years. I didn’t want to go home and I didn’t get to know my children because I couldn’t face my family. I was introduced to Streetscape and Jesse gave me a new lease on life.”

She now lives at the Kuils River farm, and is in contact with her children. “I am the seedling maker at the farm, and people say I’m the best there is,” she said proudly.

It was also drug use that resulted in Nazeema Jacobs living on the streets for five years, until she was introduced to the programme three years ago. “Streetscape gave me the dignity I needed to go back home. I am back with my children, and I am now an assistant supervisor and an all-rounder.

“Because of this programme, I am who I am today.”

Aubrey Engelbrecht lived as a criminal from the age of seven and joined a gang as a young adult.

He said while he came from a good home, he chose to sleep outside, and eventually ended up in prison.

“When I came out in 2016, I couldn’t go back home, so I went to sleep on he streets of Bellville.” He then moved to the streets of the city, and a friend introduced him to the programme.

He started out at the Vredehoek garden, where he built labyrinths, pictures of which he proudly shows off.Mr Engelbrecht was one of the first occupants at the Kuils River farm, where he is now an assistant supervisor, has his own home, and will be getting married next month.

“Streetscape gave me the opportunity to change and I grasped it with both hands. I am so proud of the work they do. They made me who I am today.”