Goodwood residents fed up with unchecked vagrancy are “threatening to take the law into their own hands”, says a local civic leader.
Goodwood Ratepayers’ Association chairman Faizel Petersen says City law enforcement aren’t doing enough to stop homeless people squatting in Goodwood and Monte Vista. In an email to Ward 27 councillor Cecile Janse van Rensburg on Thursday June 28, he warns of growing numbers of homeless, particularly under the Monte Vista, Townsend and N7 bridges.
Those living under the Monte Vista bridge, he said, included “hardened criminals” robbing people walking to the train station.
“Human faeces and rotting food are piling up and pose a health risk to residents whose boundary walls border this area. And stones are thrown at residents’ properties, and huge fires are built under this bridge every single night, which is a huge disaster-management risk, as this bridge, is one of the only arterial roads to the N1 highway which feeds Monte Vista, Bothasig, Edgemead, Goodwood and Parow,” he said.
Makeshift shelters were mushrooming in and around Monte Vista train station.
“Every night, open fires are started by the homeless. And screaming and shouting can be heard at all hours of the morning, resulting in residents again threatening to move in there and take the law into their own hands.”
A “community of vagrants” had sprung up next to the bridge opposite the Fort Ikapa military base entrance in Goodwood, and vagrants loitered near a local liquor store, begging aggressively and harassing those who refused them food or money.
“They defecate where they want to and urinate openly in public. They constantly fight with each other and pass out in the streets. They are also constantly fighting with and abusing the woman who are with them. We’ve tried quite a few times to get these women to a night shelter,” he said.
Ms Janse van Rensburg said residents had aired their concerns about the street people in various forums, and she thanked them for doing so. “At the same time though, the community has been informed on more than one occasion what their recourse is in terms of the relevant laws.”
She said she and Ward 26 councillor Franchesca Walker did all they could to listen to and guide their constituents on the issue.
Mr Petersen said residents wanted Sub-council 4 to notify them of liquor-store applications to extend trading hours as the homeless made a noise near those businesses.
Ms Janse van Rensburg said it was “crucial” for liquor stores to “trade responsibly” and comply with their licences. Those that didn’t could be reported to the Western Cape Liquor Authority and to sub-council.
Goodwood police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Hennie Rademeyer said they patrolled the area weekly and worked closely with City law enforcement, but Goodwood was facing “a huge social problem” and the homeless preferred Goodwood over Elsies River because it was more affluent.
“I agree that there is a huge criminal element living among the homeless, and during our patrols we have seen many people who have been arrested before.”
The public should press charges if they had altercations with the homeless, he said.
“If they don’t open cases how can we action their complaints? Many of the homeless are also very content with living on the streets and don’t want our help. Residents should also try and give responsibly by rather donating to shelters and NGOs who help the homeless.”
Goodwood Community Police Forum (CPF) chairman John Ross said the police did not have the manpower to solve the homeless issue.
“It’s also not their responsibility. Law enforcement needs to do more. Goodwood police also only have two vans patrolling the area on a 24-hour period. They just don’t have the resources. Shacks are forever going up along Vasco Boulevard and nothing is done about it.
“Once a shack goes up in leafy suburbs like Constantia and Durbanville they are immediately taken down by law enforcement. We need a multi-faceted approach to handle this problem,” he said.
Mr Ross said he had met Human Rights Commission commissioner Chris Nissen and Community safety MEC Dan Plato late last year about the issue but was still waiting for feedback.
“This is a human-rights issue and our hands are tied because we would be infringing on their rights if we do something out of our mandate.”
Sub-council had granted trading-hours extensions for two liquor stores recently without consulting the CPF, said Mr Ross.
“I have spoken to Ms Janse van Rensburg and she has agreed to consult us when it comes to extension of trading hours,” he said.
Tygerdal and Glenwood Neighbourhood Watch chairman Clinton Roux said there had always been a problem at Monte Vista train station with people being on top and at the bottom of the bridge.
“I know of two people who have been robbed of their cellphones and other goods. That’s why I feel it’s necessary to strengthen our neighbourhood watches.”
Clean-ups were done in the area, but the vagrants moved from City land to railway land. “Nobody is taking ownership of this problem,” he said.
Gilead Moyo, 25, of Bellville, was boarding a train to work two months ago when a man grabbed his bag with wallet and laptop before the train moved off.
“I jumped out of the train to try and get my bag but when the man took out a gun, I backed off,” he said.