Homeless a top concern for residents

Hannah Sattler, Morgan Foster, Ava Gallo and Tejas Bala from Northeastern University in Boston studied the perceptions of SAPS and the Sea Point City Improvement District of the area.

After a group of Northeastern University students from America spent time gathering information on the perceptions of SAPS and Sea Point City Improvement District (CID), they discovered that resources to tackle crime in Cape Town were too few to handle the homeless situation.

The sociology pupils, who did the study as their final assignment during their stint in South Africa, spoke to the Cape Town Central City Improvement District (CCID), Sea Point CID and Khayelitsha Social Justice Coalition, as well as 40 individuals in Sea Point to gain an understanding of the enforcement structures and they discovered that homelessness was the main issue of concern for residents.

This is not surprising because according to communications manager for the CCID, Carola Koblitz, Cape Town has 7 00 homeless in the CBD alone, which borders Sea Point, and resources to tackle the criminal element, which often disguise themselves as homeless, are few.

“The main concern residents raised is the homelessness. The CCID has profiles on homeless they gather from the social worker, so that they can put them in a homeless shelter. But there are only four homeless shelters in the city and the closest is in Woodstock,” said student Hannah Sattler.

“We surveyed the community and some perception is that CCID is big and bad, an organisation which is pro-business and whose goal is to socially sanitise the area.This is problematic. Some people asked us if we knew why SAPS looked so run-down,” she added.

The group said residents expressed concern that the CCID wasn’t doing enough to remove the homeless from the area, however, the CCID can only react once a complaint has been lodged and they do not remove the homeless from the area, but assist by hiring a social worker and have them (the homeless) located to a shelter.

Ms Koblitz said the CCID still needed more social development resources to make an impact. They, however, encouraged residents to give to the Give Responsibly NGO to help the homeless.

“About 80% of complaints or incident reports are about the homeless or begging but we have jurisdiction in between the buildings, not in public squares and the Promenade.

“Perception is still that the CCID takes homeless people and dump them outside the CCID’s boundaries.

“This may well have happened in the early days of CIDs back in the late 1990s but certainly is unacceptable behaviour today,” said Ms Koblitz.

Ms Koblitz said the CCID’s biggest problem was public perception of the homeless, as the public largely did not understand that to beg or be homeless was not a crime.

“There is an officer that will remove them all throughout the day, but once the post ends at night, they come back. We don’t have a social development department big enough to deal with the homeless so we hire social workers.

“There is a huge homeless population but we don’t have the resources to deal with it,” said Ms Koblitz.

The group also noted that the CCID had a profile on the homeless they assisted who were placed at a shelter and kept updated with their progress. Another aspect the research group noted in their study was that resources to address social issues in areas were not evenly distributed.

After visiting the Social Justice Coalition in Khayelitsha, they were told that the allocation of SAPS officers to townships like Khayelitsha and Langa were fewer than the allocation in areas such as Sea Point. They said not many SAPS officers were allocated to Khayelitsha even though the crime and murder rate was higher.

“It isn’t equally distributed in Khayelitsha where there is poor lighting. It’s security disparity. They’re trying to create a model called CID-lite for townships and so they can work with areas which have fewer resources; boundaries would be less restricted,” said another student, Ava Gallo.

Western Cape SAPS media spokesperson, Captain FC Van Wyk, did not confirm fewer resources were allocated to townships, but simply said that resources were allocated according to crime patterns and needs.

Ms Koblitz confirmed that the CCID was working on developing a “CID-lite” model that could be adopted by other areas such as Philippi, Langa and Khayelitsha where interest had been shown in forming a CID, to increase enforcement in these areas.

However, there was concern that they may struggle to get property owners together to form a CID to contribute towards the special levy required to bring in professional, contracted services.

“A longer-established CID would be able to hire professional security and urban cleaning companies, but in certain areas that are economically stressed but want to form a CID, it may be necessary to form new models that rather look at creating work opportunities from within the local communities,” said Ms Koblitz.