Homeless on agenda

DA ward councillor Shayne Ramsay Picture: Supplied

Ward councillor Shayne Ramsay says homeless people, drawn to the Atlantic Seaboard by the many tourists there and the high possibility of hand-outs could be earning as much as R5 000 a day.

Ms Ramsay, whose ward includes Sea Point, Fresnaye, Bantry Bay, Robben Island, Signal Hill, Camps Bay, Bakoven, Clifton, Three Anchor Bay (south of the Main Road, Camberwell Road, Mutley Road and Glengariff Road) and Oudekraal, told a public meeting of the Camps Bay and Clifton Ratepayers’ Association meeting she had been given this information by Camps Bay police.

Atlantic Sun, however, was unable to confirm this as Camps Bay’s station commander was not available when we called him to verify this figure.

In an effort to address homelessness on the Seaboard, Ms Ramsay said, “The Department of Social Development in conjunction with SAPS and Law Enforcement hold regular joint operations where illegal structures built on the beaches and surrounding areas are removed.”

Ms Ramsay has previously found herself in hot water over comments made about homeless people.

At the end of 2016, she found herself at the centre of a social media storm after she posted comments about homeless people in Sea Point, to which many took offence (“In hot water for homeless rant”, Atlantic Sun, December 1, 2016).

She was subsequently fined R10 000 after pleading guilty at a disciplinary committee.

Sea Point for All member Isa Jacobson, who is also a Ward 54 committee member, said she was frustrated at what she described as the City’s inability to help organisations get anything off the ground in Sea Point.

Ms Jacobson cited Souper Troopers as an example, saying that the organisation had approached the City for help with its Winter Warmth campaign, but had been turned down. When Atlantic Sun contacted Souper Troopers about this, they preferred not to comment.

Souper Troopers started by Sea Point resident Kerry Hoffman, feeds and works with people living on the streets (“Best recipe for soup is compassion”, Atlantic Sun, October 5, 2017).

Ms Jacobson said Sea Point for All wanted to help the homeless but they were struggling to find space. She said they asked to use the space on the Promenade next to the Sea Point pool, but they were told that the City’s department of social development was currently preparing the site under the Culemborg bridge as a safe space for street people which would be piloted before the roll-out of any other safe spaces.

When Atlantic Sun’s sister paper, the CapeTowner reported on this in March, the City’s mayoral committee member for safety and security and social services, JP Smith, said the safe space would be operational from this month.

When Mr Smith spoke to Atlantic Sun more recently, he said while the City was not mandated to build or fund shelters, it was however piloting a temporary safe space in the CBD which will open during June.

Asked whether this was the Culemborg site, Mr Smith confirmed that it was.

Ms Jacobson said she believes that a portion of Ward 54’s allocation of R850 000 should go toward assisting disadvantaged people in the area. “But the City works in such an inscrutable, convoluted and bureaucratic way, it seems to kick out all but a very narrow definition of suitability for these funds. Why don’t they support organisations already active in the space and doing good?” she asked.

Mr Smith, said the City’s Street People Policy was very clear in terms of this administration’s responsibility towards street people, spelling out what they deliver on, including compiling a database of street people, facilitating access to shelters and working with shelters to expand their bed space; identity documents and social grants; access to temporary work opportunities through the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) relocation to their places of origin or reunification with family.

Mr Smith said the City’s Street People Reintegration Unit engaged with individuals on a daily basis but very few people accepted the offers of assistance.

“The City runs a number of programmes in communities most at risk to prevent more people from migrating to the streets. These programmes are focused on addressing issues in the home, truancy and substance abuse and to provide support to street people who are reintegrated into their communities to prevent them from returning to their former life,” said Mr Smith.

He added that the City had a “Give Responsibly” campaign, through which it encouraged residents, businesses, faith-based organisations and tourists to donate to shelters and organisations that assist street people instead of giving direct hand-outs that can perpetuate the problem of street people not accepting the social services available to them.

The City has also activated its annual Winter Readiness programme that makes available aid to qualifying shelters to help them cope with the increased number of people seeking shelter during this time of year.

A total of 276 bed spaces have been made available, along with aid to the value of R950 000, the City said.