The Elim Night Shelter in Elsies River has stood as a beacon of hope to many since it opens its doors on Tuesday September 2, 1997.
Kent Hollesen, 80, who was on the shelter’s committee for 17 years, was at Elim’s 20th anniversary on Saturday September 2.
“I remember the Salvation Army gave us R300 back then to advertise the shelter in the local papers. We’ve faced many challenges over the years, but we have grown in leaps and bounds,” he said.
Ward 26 councillor Franchesca Walker said she had worked closely with the shelter since last year. She has experienced her own fair share of hardship in her life.
“I was one of five children, and I had to help my mother take care of my siblings. I left school in Grade 10 to work at Pick * Pay. I worked in the deli section, and, at times, I was tasked with scrubbing the floors among other things,” she said.
After going through a divorce, she had struggled to look after her two children.
“There was a time that I found myself unemployed. I decided to start a catering company. I used my house as collateral and my business failed. Just before we had to move out I met Dan Plato who offered me a job as a messenger/driver at his office,” she said.
She used the opportunity to finish her matric to get a better job.
“I wrote my exams while my mother was having her leg amputated. Eventually I got through it and applied to be a ward councillor. I was unsuccessful in my attempts in the beginning but by perseverance I find myself here today. Being a politician is not for the faint-hearted, but I love my job,” she said.
Patricia Abrahams, who runs Elim’s thrift shop, came to the shelter two years ago a broken person.
“I carried so much guilt and pain around with me. The people here showed me love, and even though it was difficult being here in the beginning, I got through it.”
David Abrahams said he had been an alcoholic when he came to the shelter.
“My wife had died and I was living on the street for three years. God sent me to this shelter. When I came here I was so broken and Elim was my fortress against the wind,” he said.
Loretta Napier, one of Elim’s founders, said that four years before the shelter opened she and other members had walked the streets looking for homeless people, determined to help them. She knows what it’s like to feel like life has kicked you in the teeth.
“When I was young, I was very angry and broken. My mother died during childbirth, and I made a promise to her that I would take care of my siblings. I was a 13-year-old girl knocking on people’s doors asking food for myself and my six siblings,” she said.
Chairman of the Elim Night Shelter board Louis de Jager, the shelter’s chairman, said it had come along way and helped many.
“I hope in the next 20 years, we become more than just a shelter. It’s easy to give someone a bed and food but to transform someone’s life is something truly special,” he said.