Hope for the homeless

The Carpenter’s Shop in Roeland Street has been renamed and will now be known as The Hope Exchange.

This was announced at the NPO’s annual general meeting held at its premises on Wednesday, August 21.

The Hope Exchange aims to help the homeless by providing them with opportunities for change through a range of services and interventions such as short-term accommodation, skills development and life-skills training.

Chairman Stuart McLeod said the timing for the renaming was perfect as homeless people are now being criminalised.

He was referring to the fining of homeless people by the City of Cape Town for contravening certain by-laws.

He said they believed that fining homeless people is not the solution.

“We’re expecting the homeless to play a part in society and they are not different from any of us in terms of following the rules and you, as the ratepayer, may not want a homeless person stepping into your doorway and rummaging through your rubbish bin but fining the homeless person is not the way to approach the problem.

“I want to reach out and appeal to the City to help us. We can help them and I think we could make a far bigger impact on homelessness than fining people,” he said.

The City is currently facing legal action following the fines dished out to homeless people.

Lawyers from Dingley Marshall Inc in Claremont have filed an urgent interdict against the City which called for the suspension of the fining and prosecution of homeless people, and preventing the City from confiscating their belongings.

The City’s executive director for safety and security, Richard Bosman, confirmed that the City had received the court papers on Thursday August 22. He said the papers are currently with their legal services and the City would respond accordingly in its answering affidavit.

The Hope Exchange director, Peter Solomon, said homelessness is getting worse every day.

He said with the Fourth Industrial Revolution and its hi-tech taking over, they are concerned that more people will find themselves unemployed.

“This will result in poverty and we will see more homeless people and that means more work for us,” he said.

Mr Solomon said giving hope to the homeless is more needed and urgent than ever. He said they’ve found that food insecurity has increased and they’ve partnered with organisations such as Ladles of Love to curb the problem.

Touching on their achievements over the past year, Mr Solomon said they have assisted 70 people a Geoff Burton House on their premises, of which 39 stayed for more than three months. He said they have managed to reunite more than 10 people with their families and had more than 25 people successfully reintegrated back into society and living independently.

The organisation has seen more than 400 people seek help at their once-a month clinic service.

Mr Solomon said they have introduced a fortnightly church service for the homeless.

“They have found the spiritual nourishment and strengthening so valuable and important that it is being increased to a weekly service.”

He said they have provided job opportunities for social work interns and students.

Sharing his story, Andile Mnikina who lived on the streets, said he could not thank the organisation enough for the opportunities they gave him. He said they were provided with meals, a private space to shower and relieve themselves and all they needed to do was focus on their goals.

“This is where I learnt to better myself. When we heard that call centres were looking for people, I was provided with a computer and did the assessment and applied. I now work at Amazon,” he said.

Sharing his sentiments, Owen Matsinyane said he’s not originally from Cape Town and he only came here to do his in-service training. He said he didn’t enjoy what he was doing, and eventually found himself on the streets.

“It was a difficult time for me. Many people believe that those who live on the streets lack motivation, but I went back to school to upgrade my marks and I’ve now applied at the University of Cape Town and Stellenbosch University to study electrical engineering which I’ve always been passionate about,” he said.

Social work manager, Ian Veary, said their aim was not to support people who live on the street but rather to offer them a chance to restore their dignity and provide them with opportunities for change.