Table View will continue drawing the homeless to its streets as long as residents keep welcoming them with hand-outs, a City law enforcement officer told a public meeting last week.
The meeting – held by the police and the community police forum – at CBC St John’s, in Parklands, on Thursday June 28, was poorly attended: about 40 people were there and most of them were police officers and CPF and neighbourhood watch members.
Law enforcement’s Inspector Wayne Aldridge said the power to stop vagrancy in the area lay with the residents and not the police.
“The vagrant issue in this area will not be solved by SAPS or law enforcement. We can move them along one day; they will come back the next day. It’s like the land grabs we have been dealing with.
“We have moved them countless times, but the people keep coming back. In this case, the Table View residents have the power to stop this,” he said.
Ward 107 councillor Nicky Rheeder said it was irresponsible of the public to give to the homeless directly instead of to charities helping them, as that only encouraged them to stay on the streets.
“We’ve spotted a big issue with the complexes on Parklands Main Road. All the complexes leave their bins outside on bin day and we have a flock of vagrants in that area,” she said.
“We have worked with the solid waste department and with them doing their bit to find alternative routes to quickly remove the bins before vagrants scratch there,” she said.
On the Greater Table View Action Forum (GTAF) Facebook page, residents had conflicting views about the homeless in the area. They also voiced concern about the added misery faced by the homeless during winter.
Residents were unhappy, though, about squatting on land behind the Killarney taxi rank in a settlement known as Tent City.
Ward 113 councillor Joy McCarthy said the squatters living in a cluster of some 10 shacks there could be moved as they were on City land illegally.
“However, they will come back again, as there is no law against being homeless. The reason they come back is because, thanks to the kind-hearted but misguided people of Table View who feed them and put out items for them to dismantle and sell as scrap or sell at the taxi ranks, they make a very good living here,” she said.
GTAF chairwoman Karen Davis said the land belonged to the City’s Transport and Urban Development Authority (TDA) and it had a duty to maintain it.
Edward Diers, 57, has lived in Tent City for about 10 years and is originally from Atlantis.
“I know that some people might not want us here, but most of us have nowhere to go. I used to live with my sister in Atlantis, and she now has her own family, and I can’t go back there,” he said.
“Not all of us here are criminals that want to destroy the land, and I always try to encourage others to keep the place clean.”
Colleen Pietersen runs the charity, TLC, helping those living on the streets, including children, because of abuse, addiction and extreme poverty.
“I feel as though people in Table View and Blaauwberg overreact at times and seem to think that they are bombarded with vagrants and it is out of hand, when, in fact, that is not the case.
“Most of these vagrants are not the bad people that others seem to think they are. We need to be compassionate and sympathetic towards them.”
TLC works with the CPF and neighbourhood watches, and Ms Pietersen believes a less hostile approach is needed to tackle vagrancy. Instead of chasing homeless people away or sending them to shelters, she advocates teaching them new skills and helping them better themselves.