Reply To Helderberg Street People - DA

It is not a crime to be living on the streets, and it is not a crime to beg, but people living on the streets lead a damaging, undignified lifestyle and we have two choices, we can either facilitate this life style by handing out nothing more than food, blankets and money or we can do the hard work needed to reintegrate people living on the streets into their communities of origin with the necessary skills to stay off the streets. People living on the streets are also often the perpetrators of by-law infringements which negatively affect the rights of other residents.  The  fact is though that the challenge of working with people living on the streets has been successfully dealt with around the world and in other parts of Cape Town, and if we want to have what other places have, we have to do what they have done. Enforcement of the Nuisance by-law is but one aspect in dealing with people living on the streets, and we all have a role to play in addressing this issue.
 It is heartening to see that more and more people and organisations are now willing to take hands with the City of Cape Town as it strives to work to assist people not only to move off the streets but to tackle the reasons why people wind up living on the streets in the first place, because no one organisation or sphere of government can successfully meet this challenge alone.  Establishing networks of care in areas which bring Churches, NGO’s and local government together is vital to this process and while it failed several years ago because people were unwilling to work together, there does appear to be a greater desire to cooperate now as the problem is increasing.
As the impact of the economic downturn continues to be felt in South Africa, more and more families are affected by drug and alcohol misuse and the effect of global warming displaces people, more and more are going to move to the City where they perceive their lives will be better or onto the streets. Unfortunately many of them then wind up living on the streets where they are exposed to further personal danger, poverty, alcohol and drugs which traps them in a life on the streets.  All hand-outs do in this instance is to trap people living on the Streets into a cycle of further deprivation which does not encourage them to seek help to move off the streets.
The ward councillors of Somerset West, Strand and Gordons Bay have for the past 2 years funded 3 Outreach Workers who have been working directly with the people living on the streets and the recent change of management at the night shelter has resulted in greater cooperation under the phenomenal leadership of Mrs Jo Swart.  The Street People’s Centre has also begun discussions with the City which will hopefully result in a more unified approach to this challenge and after a visit to the Durbanville Job and Skills Training Centre last month with members of local business and I, there are plans to develop this kind of facility in the Helderberg. But in order to achieve this we need to work together and this is where the proposed network of care becomes very important and I have already held meetings with some of the roleplayers with a view to its establishment and have several further meetings scheduled ahead of the launch in May this year.
While the roleplayers cooperate more and more, residents can all play a role by not giving directly to people living on the streets. It is a feather in the cap of the Helderberg that so many residents are willing to give so generously, but giving directly to people living on the streets sustains their damaging lifestyle on the streets. There are several organisations doing great work in the Helderberg and many of them are moving closer together as we strive to restore dignity and safety to people by encouraging them to be reintegrated into their communities of origin and equip them with the skills to stay off the streets.

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