Parow’s bridge of trouble

The people living under the Tierberg Bridge in Parow are among the thousands of homeless dotted across Cape Town – more than 7 000 at the last count, according to a City survey last year.

Residents near the bridge say the homeless there are a threat to their safety and their poor living conditions pose a serious health hazard to both themselves and the broader community.

Lindsay Mc Crae said the people under the bridge defecated and urinated there and left the area strewn with litter.

She claimed residents had spotted the homeless using drugs several times and used condoms had been founded in the area.

“This is an eyesore and very embarrassing when we get visitors. We are not safe in our own homes,” said Ms Mc Crae, a mother of two daughters.

“We don’t know what these people are capable of. My kids can’t go play with their friends two houses down because of the people that hang around at the bridge.”

In the past, she said, residents had tried to tell the homeless to move, but lately they had become very violent.

“The problem is that once the vagrants are removed from the bridge by law enforcement, they just come back the same day,” said Ms Mc Crae.

Suzette Little, the City’s mayoral committee member for social development and early childhood development, said the homeless’s transient nature made it hard to tell whether their numbers were increasing. She said many of those living on the street had rejected assistance from the authorities.

Ms Mc Crae said dogs barked at the homeless at night giving residents sleepless nights.

“We have to get up early in the mornings to go work, and the vagrants want to sleep. It’s just not fair. We pay to live here and they don’t,” said Ms Mc Crae.

Ms Mc Crae, along with other residents, aired her views on the Goodwood Parow Bothasig Crime Facebook page.

One resident, Charlene Minnis, said: “We have the same problem in Parow Valley – you just have to constantly call law enforcement; they do respond. Then you call the City and report illegal dumping, and they will clean up the mess left behind. Unfortunately it’s a continuous cycle …same thing every few weeks.”

Another Facebook user, Denise Brown, said: “The unfair part is we pay to live here and yet have to struggle with all these elements.”

Hileanor Mollentze posted: “I fully agree – we are in desperate need of action here. By doing nothing we give them full authority over our freedom – and this is exactly where this is leading to – driving us out, selling our property to the next drug dealer – the people with the cash – drug money. I am not being negative but these are sad facts. Parow is becoming a fast dying, drug infested area.”

Northern News visited the Tierberg bridge and spoke to two homeless people who say they often sleep there.

Henrietta Paulse, 24, said sometimes she had nowhere else to go. There were no public toilets, she said, so she had to make do as best she could. “We know that what we do is unhygienic, but we are also just human, trying to live a life,” said Ms Paulse. She said she never disturbed the residents unless she was begging for food.

Dorris Brown, 37, said she had been moving around the streets of Parow for more than 10 years. With no family in Cape Town and a drug habit to support, she said she had nowhere else to go.

“I don’t bother people because I know why I am on the streets. All I do is beg for food, and, yes, sometimes when I am drunk, I am rude, but I try to control myself,” said Ms Brown.

Parow police spokesman Captain Kevin Williams said police patrolled Tierberg bridge regularly.