Street people on agenda

Mayco member JP Smith was the keynote speaker at the Mouille Point Ratepayers Association AGM meeting last week.

The City’s winter readiness programme was one of the main talking points at a community meeting held last week.

Currently in the planning phase is an overnight place of safety for displaced people.

The matter was discussed at the annual general meeting of the Mouille Point Ratepayers’ Association (MPRA), where mayoral committee member for safety and security; and social services, JP Smith, was the keynote speaker.

“We have a growing street people population. Lots more people are finding themselves without a safety net and ending up on the street,” he said.

The most recent survey conducted by the City, said Mr Smith, revealed that there were more than 7 000 people on the city’s street.

“Of that we have about 700 people in the City Bowl and surrounds and about 2 500 people live in shelters, which is the maximum capacity of these shelters.

“The shelters expand over the winter period, as part of the winter readiness programme, when we make additional funding available,” said Mr Smith.

“One of things we are going to have to do is expand our shelter space because it hasn’t expanded in about a decade. I will strongly urge you to embrace social development solutions because that is the only one that will have a chance of working,” Mr Smith told residents at the meeting.

“We need to double the number of beds at the shelters. We probably need about 5 000 beds. As a short-term intervention, (we have) purchased 10 large structures, which we will be rolling out at shelters to immediately expand the bed space. They are solid and well made structures and last for 20 years.

“We will provide social workers, access to toilets, showers and storage lockers so people aren’t lugging stuff the whole day including valuables such as ID documents,” said Mr Smith.

“We will have to manage and we will use it as an opportunity to introduce counselling and engagement with people – which is the first step of reintegration. If the project works, we’ll introduce more of the them.”

When Atlantic Sun contacted Mr Smith for additional information about this initiative, he said the project was in “the feasibility and planning phase” and that “we will be in a position to comment further once plans have been finalised”.

He added that, through the social development department’s engagement with street people, the following needs had been identified as the most pressing: safe spaces to sleep at night, space to store their belongings at night, ablution facilities, space to cook their food so that they don’t make fires on the street, and a space to wash their clothes.

Hassan Kahn, CEO of the Haven Night Shelter, said he was supportive of the initiative.

He also said they were one of the partners involved in the City’s winter readiness programme.

“We support the initiative. It is about providing help for people who want to get off the streets and back to their families.”

He said the City’s Winter Readiness programme had evolved but said the shelters needed more support and stressed that law enforcement could not be used to solve social development issues.

Jane Meyer, of the MPRA, said the association supported the initiative.

“We believe the management of the facility is crucial if the project is to be a success.

“Due to various circumstances more and more people are finding themselves on the streets and there needs to be alternatives in place for people to take up.

“Although the current shelter options are good, space is limited and they are a kind of ‘one size fits all’ model.”