Project for second chances

Aubrey Thompson and Colleen Pietersen, founder of TLC.

A Table View non-profit organisation says it has a winning formula to get homeless people off the streets but it needs the support from the community and local government to do so.

TLC Outreach Projects has made a mark in Table View and surrounding areas over the past 20 years. Run by Colleen Pietersen, the organisation has been responsible for helping people battling social ills such as poverty, abuse, crime and homelessness.

About four years ago, Ms Pietersen, who is especially passionate about getting people off the streets, created a programme called the Independent Living Plan (ILP).

“Most people think homeless people will never get off the streets, but I can prove to them that it’s possible,” said Ms Pietersen. And she can back up this statement as well with the results the programme has rendered.

Since TLC launched the ILP pogramme, it has gotten people off the streets every year and last year was no exception.

“Last year, about 30 people joined the programme and we only had two drop-outs. The rest either returned to their homes in other provinces or got jobs and have been able to find a place to stay.”

Ms Pietersen believes the programme’s success lies in the detailed modules covering a wide variety of topics, such as health, family reintegration, finances, charity and career guidance, to name a few.

TLC goes further by meeting practical needs as well, such as setting up learner’s license appointments and helping those who need IDs to get them as soon as possible.

“We treat them like students. They get a file, desk and computer that they use during workshops. It gives them a sense of belonging and makes them feel like they have earned something. Many are on the streets not because they want to be but because they had no choice. They’ve been given a raw deal.”

Aubrey Thompson was one of the success stories for 2016. He joined the ILP programme a few days after being released from prison where he had served a three-year sentence.

“The day I was released I thought what now? I had no direction and I had a criminal record. I got involved in drugs and crime and I had served time in prison before,” said Mr Thompson.

He found religion while serving time in prison and built a friendship with one of the warders. When he was released, the warder who didn’t want him to be “idle” drove him to TLC, based at the Table View police station.

“Since I’ve been here, my life has changed dramatically. You get so much love and Auntie Colleen makes you feel at home.

“A few months after becoming a student, I became a TLC volunteer. Then Auntie Colleen helped me to find a job with the City of Cape Town. It was the first time in 10 years since I earned my own money. It was such a good feeling,” said Mr Thompson.

Mr Thompson now works as a support manager at Computicket in Table View where he also lives.

“You think no one cares, but there are always people who care. Our purpose was never to be on the streets or on drugs. We just need to reach out. There are so many people willing to help.”

Ms Pietersen points out that the programme runs for over a year because it goes in-depth. Skimming over things simply won’t do, she says. Those on the programme are monitored and random drug tests are carried out. Staying away for more than three days results in suspension.

“Consistency, communication, accountability and sustainability are the key ingredients to the programme’s success, but, most importantly, the power of prayer because they’re all broken,” she said.

Ms Pietersen’s future dream for the programme is for it to branch out to include a skills workshop where the students can do basic electrical, plumbing and welding training.

“TLC does not receive a government subsidy, and funds are obtained through people who know the project. Running this project costs money, and it would be great to get more people on board to make it an even greater success,” she said.

Ward 23 councillor Nora Grose said of TLC’s programme: “I am certainly supportive of this project and believe Colleen and her team need all the support they can get. This is a mammoth task, and, as we know, homelessness is on the increase.”

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