Milnerton refuge for street people

SUMMER JACOBS

The City of Cape Town is renovating the old Cape College of Theology in Potsdam Road, Killarney Gardens, Milnerton, into a shelter for more than 200 street people.

Dubbed a “restoration centre” by the City, Mayor Patricia de Lille mentioned the project when she presented the City’s budget to a full council meeting on Wednesday May 25. And speaking at the Cape Town Press Club last week, the mayor said: “We have just acquired a building in Milnerton, an old college on the outskirts of Milnerton, where we are now going to redesign it to offer some accommodation to people living on the streets. We’re working flat out. It’s already winter. We are getting people off the streets, and integrating them with their families.”

She said council had approved the lease of the “massive building” one month ago.

“We’ve already started a campaign to say to people, ‘Give responsibly.’ Because if you give money to people at the robots, you sometimes feed bad habits,” she said.

Suzette Little, mayoral committee member for social development and early childhood development, said the centre was a first for the City. Milnerton had been chosen because of its central position in relation to “hot spot areas for street people”.

“It is envisaged that the centre will provide accommodation for between 200 and 250 people, with

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the appropriate ablution requirements,” said Ms Little.

Any street person willing to accept the centre’s services would be considered “dependent on available space”.

Ms Little would not be drawn on costs involved in setting up the centre. However she said some of the services would be provided by NGOs. Founder of the non-profit organisation TLC Outreach Projects, Colleen Petersen, said the centre was a great idea. Although she was unaware of the plans, she said she would be overwhelmed to see it take shape.

“TLC ran a skills development centre a few years ago, and it was a great success. Eighty percent of the people never returned to the street. Once you can rehabilitate them with accommodation and skills development, then you can get them on the right path,” said Ms Petersen. She would be more than willing to offer some of TLC’s services to street people at the centre once it was running.

“We could run programmes with them, such as family counselling, family reunion services, parental group therapy and prayer sessions,” she said.

The Milnerton Ridge Ratepayers’ Association (MRRA) said ward councillor Dr Joy McCarthy had informed it about the planned centre. MRRA chairman Rolf Spaeth welcomed the initiative.

“The MRRA fully supports and welcomes any initiative that provides accommodation to people living on the streets, especially in the Milnerton, Table View, Blaauwberg area, since to our knowledge there is currently no such institution in this area,” he said.

Substance abuse among street people was another problem and “should the shelter also include some form of rehabilitation facility this would be very welcome”.

He said the MRRA felt the centre would help to reduce the number of people spending nights at shopping centres and parks in the area.

“The Gallery shopping centre and the Shell garage on the corner of Koeberg Road and Montague Drive are the areas of specific concern to the residents of Milnerton Ridge. We have some homeless people who regularly camp there. Whether the opening of this shelter will reduce the daytime homeless and vagrant problems in our area remains to be seen.

“Some residents have voiced their willingness to assist in such a shelter and we eagerly look forward to have additional details of this City project,” he said.