Concerns over homeless

De Waal Park

Concerns have been raised about the homeless people who have been living in De Waal Park in Oranjezicht.

Speaking at this month’s Community Police Forum (CPF) meeting last Thursday, April 4, Sergeant Glen Machelm, manager for Sector 1 at Cape Town Central police station, said there have been complaints from residents, including a nearby hotel.

Tents can be seen in different parts of the park.

The park supervisor, Clayton Smith, said a minimum of four people live in each tent.

Mr Smith said Law Enforcement comes once or twice a month and removes them but they come back and rebuild their structures within hours. He said crimes do happen, but they don’t happen inside the park.

“Yes, there’s a crime problem outside of the park, but not in here. Unfortunately, the park doesn’t close and people come back and sleep here,” he said.

He said the people come and go, some are back in jail and the group that currently lives there were the stubborn crowd.

He said they used to put up wooden structures before, but now they all have tents. The park is popular with dog walkers, children and joggers.

In 2008, a group of volunteers set up the Friends of De Waal Park, which assisted the City in the maintenance and upgrading of the park.

Former chairman of Friends of De Waal Park, Charles Lindsay Bowman, said this problem has been going on for a while. He said there’s no control of the park.

“It’s a disaster and people are no longer coming in numbers to the park in fear of their safety,” he said.

Mr Lindsay Bowman said they have met with the City officials and raised their concerns but nothing has been done.

“It is illegal to live in the park and the City should be doing something about this. It’s wrong,” he said.

While the Atlantic Sun was at the park, three men jumped over the fence into the park instead of using the gates.

A resident who didn’t want to be named said this is usual in the park and people don’t even bother using the gates, especially in the evenings.

Responding to the matter, the City’s mayoral committee member for community services and health, Zahid Badroodien, said the recreation and parks department is working in collaboration with Law Enforcement, the Displaced People’s Unit and social development, to report criminal activity to the police.

He said operations to find alternatives for the homeless continue, as the park is mostly used as a safe space after hours.

“De Waal Park has been on the hotspot list for Law Enforcement and the Displaced People’s Unit for a few years. The Oranjezicht/Green Point Central Improvement District and SAPS, also do rounds within the park. Numerous meetings and operations have been undertaken by all parties, to assist with the relocating the homeless, however, as soon as operations conclude they move back into the park. The frequency of this occurring has increased in recent years.”

CPF chairperson, Marc Truss, said while there is crime in the area, particularly theft out of motor vehicles, they can’t say the homeless people are responsible for it.