During the six long weeks of level 5 lockdown, we dedicated special focus to supporting the homeless. We collaborated with local NGOs, charities and other players to ensure food security for those on the streets, to deliver food parcels, and to support the destitute in terms of health, re-integration, and drug withdrawal.
Much of this work made possible by volunteers from churches and businesses. Around 600 – 800 people attended each meal distribution at Bellville, which were manned by only a few volunteers. We’re grateful to Securitas, who were involved in crowd-control, maintaining social distancing and ensuring that hands were sanitised.
Our VRCID team provided MES with much needed financing so that 10 portable toilets could be hired for the 2 month period, providing ablution facilities for every registered member. We also paid 4 GROW team members to clean these toilets and ensure that each user’s hands were sanitised before and after use. MES plans to expand their GROW project and also create other avenues where people on the streets and in shelters can develop skills and benefit from opportunities to earn an income.
“In level 4, we asked each person to collect recyclable waste and return a full bag the next day to “pay” for their meal. What I saw again, during this difficult time, is how adaptable we are. There have been many good and bad moments, and it’s been an emotional and tough time, but I’ve seen our resilience first-hand because we’ve had to make things work,” says Wilma Piek, our Social Development Manager.
Pat Eddy from CCID commented, “One of the most positive aspects of this pandemic has been how the NGO sector has pulled together with far better collaboration on the services offered by various partners. I do believe that the sector is much stronger with the VRCID and CCID having been included in these discussions. CIDs should really be supporting an alternative social development approach as opposed to the traditional law enforcement one.”
To address homelessness in a sustainable way, we must provide a range of care, including substance use disorder programmes, psycho-social support, accommodation, and income generating opportunities.
Wilma adds, “Our consortium is now meeting once a week to seek alternative long-term plans to really eradicate homelessness in our country. We are looking towards international solutions, where a permanent housing model is provided that allows individuals to earn an income in a community set up, providing them with the time and resources required to work through their problems and learn skills”.
Anyone wishing to assist in these transformative efforts can contact Wilma on 021 823 6713, visit the MES website at http://www.mes.org.za/index.php/donate, or contact MES Cape Town at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Bellville Haven can be contacted via George.Narkedien@haven.org.za.