Squatting? Not here, says Nautilus

ATHINA MAY

Residents of the Nautilus complex in Big Bay are upset that homeless people are staying overnight on a plot behind their building.

The people arrive in the evening and leave in the early hours, leaving little trace of their presence and making it tricky for law enforcement to confront them.

Nautilus resident Wilma van Rensburg’s children first told her about the people living in the bush.

At first, she didn’t take it too seriously. Then returning home one day, she and her husband spotted someone dashing into the bushes, and that evening the couple heard voices of several people in the bush.

“It became worse during the night, as you can hear them at the back, and they use the plants as their hiding space,” she said.

“We’re worried, because in the beginning there were only two people, but now it’s getting worse.”

Ms Van Rensburg and her neighbour, Jac Lourens, sought the help of the Table View Neighbourhood Watch (TVNW) and the municipality to evict the people who had now been sleeping behind the complex for more than two months, but it soon felt as if their pleas were falling on deaf ears.

“The TVNW referred us to the municipality, who we then contacted. They sent a guy out to evaluate the problem, but he came during the day, and no one was there.

“He said he would come back at a later stage, but we’ve heard nothing from him since,” Ms Van Rensburg said.

In the meantime, Mr Lourens said, the number of people in the bush had grown.

“Last week, there were six people staying there. It’s getting progressively worse. They have cut the bush to make space for living. While standing on my balcony, I noticed a man hiding a bottle of Old Brown Sherry in the bushes.”

Suzette Little, mayoral committee member for social development and early childhood development, confirmed that the City’s displaced people’s unit (DPU) was dealing with the complaint.

“The street people, unfortunately, return at night, setting up makeshift structures. We have found that street people move around during the day and then settle at the location at night,” she said.

“The City’s law enforcement department has done regular operations and patrols in the area to remove the structures as well as assist the street people in the vicinity.”

She said the City used a developmental approach to deal with street people, and a reintegration unit helped to find them shelter or reunite them with their families.

Table View’s Tender Loving Care (TLC) outreach programme also works with the homeless, helping find a way off the street through an independent living programme.

“You can’t just take them from here and put them there. They will come back,” said TLC organiser, Colleen Pietersen.

“We help the homeless through sports, education and religious programmes. We then give them a room to rent and help them find employment so that they can start paying for their place on their own.”

The programme had an 80 percent success rate, said Mr Pietersen.

Eswydo Booysen is in the independent living programme.

The 31-year-old from Atlantis has been on Table View’s streets for 17 years and says he knows the individuals camping outside the Nautilus building.

He claimed that they make a noise because they use drugs, and stay behind Nautilus only because they are not told to leave. He said his friend, called “Dog”, who sometimes stays there, was moved from the area.

“He has TB and it’s bad, so SAPS took him to hospital. We get beat up on the street, sprayed with teargas, and Dog, who is sick, was beaten up badly and had two holes in his head,” said Mr Booysen, looking down at his hands.

He’s angry with those who treat him poorly, but admits his actions go against the law and he joined the independent living programme to get his life back on track.

“It’s wrong and I feel it’s wrong, I want to live a better life. When people see me they chase me away – most of them are racist, but there are good people too. In the beginning, I was rude back to them, but now I don’t talk back. What’s the point?”

“I was in prison, and I’ve been out for a year now. Then I learned about Colleen and TLC. I just thought to myself one day, what am I doing in Table View? I have to take my life into my own hands. Colleen helped me with food and clothes, and I made the choice to live my own life,” Mr Booysen said.

* Despite numerous attempts, Tabletalk was unable to make contact with the homeless people staying on the plot.

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