A shelter is needed for the homeless living on the streets of greater Milnerton and Table View, say councillors.
At the Sub-council 3 meeting, held at the Royal Ascot municipal offices, on Thursday May 18, councillors from wards 1, 4, 104 and 113 called on the provincial Department of Social Development to look into providing such a facility.
“We need multiple departments to tackle this issue. Law Enforcement, the City’s displaced persons unit and Social Development need to work together. Residents are complaining to us all the time about the homeless harassing them. We need a place for the homeless to be able to get shelter and safe,” said Ward 4 councillor Anthony Benadie.
Ward 11 councillor Joy Solomon said the issue had been tabled since 2014.
“In 2014, I thought we could have a safe space near the taxi rank in Killarney, and then we looked at another place closer to Dunoon, but that was deemed to be a biodiversity area and we couldn’t build there. So we understand that there is a need for a safe space in our communities, but the issue is where to put it.
“There is a huge building on Parklands Main Road near the Pick n Pay that has been vacant for about three years. We have suggested as well that a safe space be located near an industrial area, where it would be close to job opportunities.”
Ms Solomon said she had joined the City’s homeless portfolio specifically to promote the issue but it seemed to lack urgency.
Sub-council 3 chairman Phindile Maxiti said it was Social Development’s responsibility to find a suitable facility
“The mayor has spoken on many occasions about the need for these face spaces in our communities, and I am in agreement. We have to now wait for feedback from the department.”
Ward 4 councillor Meisie Makuwa said the department had many buildings and facilities to choose from for a shelter.
“Near Dunoon at the industrial park at the back of Winning Way, there is a building that used to be an old clinic. The department needs to do investigations and report back to find out what can be done as this is an urgent matter.”
Mandisa Banjwa, a Department of Social Development official, told the councillors that the department was looking into the issue and would give feedback to the sub-council when ready.
The councillors asked Ms Banjwa about immediate steps to help the homeless in the area.
“Our process is that we have to approach and engage homeless people at least six times. We can’t force them to get help if they refuse. I know it might not be ideal, but we have to follow the process. We then liaise with Law Enforcement or the displaced persons unit for further assistance. Often people don’t want to go to shelters that are available,” she said.
Keith de Jager, a homeless man living in Summer Greens near Emerald Park, said he would love to go to a shelter, but he made a better living being on the streets.
“I know people would ask why would you choose the street rather than a place with a proper roof over my head. The thing is I have my two dogs here. I’m safe and I can make money to eat in peace. Some of these safe shelters don’t even want you to bring your spouse or even your animals. But this is how we live, and we need our loved ones with us. Maybe if there was a shelter near here where they would allow me and my animals, I would go.”
Ms Solomon said she had heard complaints about couples being split up at shelters or animals being turned away, but that was not the case at City shelters, such as the Culemborg Safe Space, which allowed people with their families and pets.
“These animals are emotional-support animals so they are really important to the emotional and mental health of people.”