“My name is Linda. It means patience in my language,” says Linda Ngqoshana while packing his makeshift tent and bed into a 50kg rice bag.
For the last three months, Mr Ngqoshana, 38, has been homeless and sleeping on Milnerton’s green belts.
The previous night he had slept under a tree on an open field next to the R27.
He wipes away sleep from his eyes as he explains that he is originally from Piketberg where he used to work on a horse farm taking care of foals.
Last year he moved to Cape Town to live with his brother in Joe Slovo.
Things did not work out with his girlfriend and mother of his two children back home, he says.
Mr Ngqoshana continues to wipe his eyes, this time wiping tears away. He misses his children and seeking help from social workers in Piketberg has been futile.
Living with his brother has also been difficult as alcohol abuse is rife in the home.
“My brother gets violent when he is drunk and wants to fight with people and he tries to drag me into these fights. It’s dangerous living there.”
He would rather take his chances on the street, he says. He does not use alcohol or drugs to keep warm at night and says simply, “You just have to be strong”.
His weakness, however, is missing his children and tears which he is no longer able to contain anymore, stream down his tired face as talks about missing them.
“This is no way to live. I just want to be with my children,” he said.
Mr Ngqoshana’s story is just one of many from the homeless people filling Milnerton’s streets.
While the City of Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for area north, Suzette Little says, the City does not have a formal head count for the homeless in Milnerton, Ward 107 councillor Nicky Rheeder has picked up an increase in the number of street people in her ward.
At the last Sub-council 3 meeting on Thursday April 19, Ms Rheeder submitted a motion for a homeless shelter to be “considered” in Ward 107 or surrounding areas.
Two years ago there was talk of renovating the old Cape College of Theology in Potsdam Road in Killarney Gardens into a shelter for more than 200 street people (“Milnerton refuge for street people,” Tabletalk, June 8, 2016).
At the time, Ms Little said Milnerton was chosen because of its central position in relation to “hot spot areas” for street people and that those willing to accept the centre’s services would be considered “dependent on available space”.
Last week Tabletalk asked her why the centre did not materialise. Ms Little said the City’s Social Development and Early Childhood Development Department wanted to enter into a lease agreement with the college but was unsuccessful. Reading her motion in sub-council, Ms Rheeder said in an 18 month-period the number of homeless rose from approximately 80 people to over 100.
“There have been several interventions over the last two years on a weekly basis by Law Enforcement and Social Development. The outcome is few wanting to accept assistance as it means they would need to go to shelters outside of the area and they already have little to no money so transport is not an option. Not only are there too few shelters across the City but there are no shelters nearby the area. The homeless therefore remain on the street instead of travelling to Bellville or town to the nearest shelters,” said Ms Rheeder.
She said most of the homeless make money by scratching in bins and selling their goods. “Most of these people have expressed that they would go to a shelter if there was one in the area,” said Ms Rheeder.
For Mr Ngqoshana, the prospect of a homeless shelter is a glimmer of hope. He has lost belongings, including his ID, when hiding his bag in drains during the day and says sleeping in a shelter would be safer.
Ms Rheeder pointed out that wards 113 and 23 also have many homeless on the streets and that the special ratings area (SRA) in Montague Gardens is “forcing its homeless into the area as well”.
Residents in an SRA pay top-up rates for extra services, including cleansing and law enforcement.
In Montague Gardens and Maconi Beam, the SRA has resulted in a decrease of street people in the area. “It is definitely clear that the area is in desperate need of a shelter. It would uplift these individuals and return some dignity to their lives whilst aiding Social Development to assist them further,” said Ms Rheeder. Colleen Pieterse, founder of the non-profit welfare organisation TLC Outreach Projects, said they appreciated Ms Rheeder’s call for a shelter but said it would not fix the problem. “If they are going to build a centre is must equip these people with skills so that they can better themselves and be reintegrated with their families,” she said.
Based next to the Table View police station, TLC runs several programmes for homeless and youth at risk including driving lessons, computer skills courses and setting up CVs.
BLOB All street people matters or queries can be logged though the City’s call centre at 021 480 7700 from a cellphone or 107 from a landline, or the City’s toll-free number on 0800 872 201.