More tussling over toilets

Rocklands ablution facilities now close at 6pm after a five-month trial period of remaining open 24 hours a day.

The opening times of public toilets on the promenade have once again drawn mixed reaction from the Sea Point community.

Last year, sub-council 16 approved a proposal to have a 24-hour ablution facility on the Sea Point promenade. This was a pilot project run by Ward 54 councillor Shayne Ramsay.

Ms Ramsay pledged R150 000 of her ward allocation for the six-month trial project, which divided the community, with some residents arguing it was a waste of money (“Toilet tussle”, Atlantic Sun, November 23, 2017).

Despite the project having been canned after five months, Ms Ramsay said she believed it to have been a success. “The project has been criticised by the conservative element in my ward who have claimed that it was a waste of money and would, in fact, attract more homeless people to the area.

“I am happy to say that this has proved untrue since the inception of the project as no major incidents have been reported, making the pilot project a success,” she said.

Ms Ramsay said about 3 000 people had used the facility between 6pm and 6am. The cost to the City over five months was R150 000 which had been used to cover the cost of employing a security guard.

Ms Ramsay suggested that the City kept some of the ablution facilities open until 10pm, which would not necessitate the employment of a security guard.

“People have resorted to relieving themselves against the walls once again. This means that the Recreation and Parks Department has to spend more time and money cleaning up afterwards,” she said.

Some residents of Sea Point agreed with Ms Ramsay, saying the project had been a great success from a health and dignity perspective. They believe the ablution facilities should remain open 24/7.

Commenting on Facebook, Jeremy Rich, said: “A world-class city should have 24×7 public toilets. The problem is the 30k a month security cost. There must be a better way than having a guard at each toilet? What would happen if they were not guarded?”

Julian Sendin of Reclaim the City, said it was a shame that the project had been canned. Mr Sendin said on Facebook: “There is clearly significant support for this project, it’s a shame it hasn’t been upscaled let alone canned.

“The security costs are excessive, someone above is right to point out that about 75% of that goes to a company, ie labour brokers.

“Another income stream should come from the Sea Point CID because such initiatives fall squarely in their mandate.”

However, a member of the Atlantic Seaboard Action Group, Paul Jacobson, lambasted the trial project.

“The experiment was a dismal failure and probably encouraged street people to gravitate to Sea Point. It has had a negative impact on the Atlantic Seaboard. The experiment came at a huge cost to the community, costing R150 000 for this five-month period,” he s

Mr Jacobson added that the ward had a limited budget and there were other more serious matters that the community had asked for the councillor to attend to.

“We needed a budget to place a traffic officer outside The Point/Checkers where taxi drivers pass red lights and endanger our residents and families. We had asked the councillor to provide more social workers to attend to the homeless.

“It is disgraceful that the entire Atlantic Seaboard has only one social worker to assist the homeless. We could have used the budget to finance another shelter or provide more beds in other shelters,” he said.

When asked whether they would support the ablution facilities closing at 10pm, Mr Jacobson said: “I would support opening toilets until 10pm in summer and 8pm in winter. To have a security guard placed outside these toilets from 6pm to 6am, given that only a few used this facility, is just a waste of time and money.”

A homeless person living in Sea Point, Vanessa Petermann, said she wished the facilities would remain open 24/7. “There are a lot of homeless people in Sea Point. As amazing as Cape Town is, it’s shocking and saddening to see how many homeless people are living here. They should at least keep the toilets open for people to use toilets like any other decent human being,” she said.