Who is to Blame for Somerset West's Vagrant Problem?

The Helderberg is one of the most beautiful areas to live in, surrounded by beaches, mountains, golf courses and vineyards. The Helderberg attracts visitors from across the globe to experience the beauty of our village. The community is diverse from the ultra rich who live in the prestigious estates and suburbs to the very poor living in townships and squatter camps.

As one looks at the view of the mountains and sea from our homes behind our walls, it is easy to ignore the degradation taking place in Somerset West.

Vagrants are becoming a huge problem in our beautiful town. They seem to be taking over Somerset West. Our streets and parks are overflowing with vagrant’s litter, plastic bags, newspapers, broken bottles, used condoms, dagga pipes and worse still human excrement leaving behind clouds of foul odors.

Now let’s be honest, who is to blame for this growing problem? We could blame our history and as usual blame the problem on apartheid, or we could blame our government for not taking action to solve the problem. However the truth behind who’s to blame for the vagrant problem in our town lies squarely of the residents of the Helderberg Basin.

Each time you give money, food or clothing to a vagrant you are keeping that person stuck in their situation. You are actually enabling their behavior and encouraging others to come to our town. Think about it…why should a person change when he does not have to?

It may seem a harsh view, but it is actually called tough love. Every time you offer them a handout you are enabling their behavior and you are indirectly at fault for stopping that person to seek help for his or her problem. The very same problem, that got them onto the streets in the first place.

The majority of vagrants living on our streets are either alcoholics or drug addicts. They use the money you give them to feed their habit by buying alcohol or drugs. Your hand out is actually supporting a chain of crime, especially when they use your money to buy drugs.

There are many junkies holding up sign boards saying no work, no money, no food at our intersections trying to make you feel sorry for them. Do not be fooled by their sorry faces and sign boards, they are just manipulating you into giving them money to buy drugs or booze. By giving them money you are a part of the problem and you are responsible then for supporting their drug or alcohol habit and unknowingly are also supporting the criminals and gangsters of Somerset West.

It is time for the residents of Somerset West to take responsibility and refrain from supporting vagrants, car guards and beggars at our intersections, car parks and homes. We need to take action and stop ignoring a problem that is becoming worse and worse which affects our safety, lifestyle and value of our property.

Residents of Somerset West also need to rally against some of the organizations feeding these vagrants in the centre of our town. Instead, they should move their feeding programs to the night shelter of Somerset West, or go into the townships were people are in desperate need of feeding their children.

The truth is feeding vagrants, drug addicts and alcoholics is the same as giving them money to buy drugs or alcohol. Feeding these people outside of structured institutions causes more damage than good. You are taking away their responsibility and keeping them stuck, which stops them from taking measures to seek help. This may seem harsh and yes it is, but it is the truth.

Yes there are some organizations that are doing a lot of good in the community, but these organizations are not simply giving handouts, instead they are offering the homeless a hand up. Like the Somerset West night shelter that charges R10 a night for accommodation, a cooked meal and breakfast. They have a support structure including a social worker to assist the homeless with finding a solution to their problems. For example getting them into a treatment program, government grants or finding work. Many churches also get involved offering solutions to the homeless, not just giving them handouts. These are the organizations that you should be supporting instead of handing your money to the vagrants of Somerset West and the organizations that are simply enabling their dependency on drugs and alcohol.

Clearly the problem is huge and is getting worse day by day. It is time for the community of The Helderberg to intervene, help solve the vagrant problem in Somerset West by not giving hand outs!

What do you think?
Have your say on the Helderberg Basin Blog


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  2. I picked this up on the local Social Issues google group that I have set up for the Observatory Civic Association. Two suggestions.
    1. In Ward 57 (includes Mowbray, Obs, Salt River, Woodstock), we have two field workers who interact with street people on the street and as a first step try to get them into a shelter.
    2. We have set up a meal coupon scheme with Spar. Shoppers buy R5 meal coupons, and (rather than handout cash) give these to street people.
    A coupon gets a hot supper at Loaves and Fishes, a local second-phase shelter. We try to educate people to 'give responsibly' which means not giving cash handouts.
    Rob Gaylard robgaylard@mweb.co.za

  3. Thank you Rob for this we will try and follow you and prehaps get in touch when we get some community buy in! Thanks again!

  4. We need a combined, co-ordinated, holistic effort with ALL parties: NGO's, Govt, Religious Groups, etc working together. Some of us are in the process of trying to set this up and have begun talks with relevant parties.

  5. i think we should look at the situation thoroughly if we want to make judgments. we as humans are so quick to pass judgments without all the facts.
    what got these 'vagrants' onto the streets? what got them into alcohol and drugs? they are victims of a cruel and inhumane capitalist society, they are the suffering. harshness and anger toward them is only kicking them while they are down. if anybody wants to complain about them, they should first try do something about the problem. like Rob's suggestion.
    we want to have the poor put out of sight, so we can pretend that we live in some magical perfect place.
    instead of complaining and closing yourself off, maybe we should be talking to these poor people that have been driven to homelessness, find out why they feel they need drink/drugs, counsel them, love them.
    they are humans, our brothers and sisters. they deserve dignity, love, respect. shelter. food. wisdom, teaching, love, love and love.
    im my family were murdered and i lost my job and i was forced out onto the streets, i would like to know that somebody out there would help me, not scorn me and call me an eye-sore and a public nuisance.
    perhaps this is the biggest reason they turn to drugs and booze, because they have lost everything, and they know that there is no love for them out there. they are hollow people with no hope of love or acceptance.

    i plead with anyone reading this, try with me to not be so nasty to people, try to love all fellow humans, love them unconditionally. because isnt that what we all want? to be loved despite of the bad things we do.
    lets love one another.

  6. Hey Timothy, I think you should read the post again? You are not making any sense at all!


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