City project to help homeless get off the street

Where home is the street

By Yazeed Kamaldien

January 19 2012 at 12:36pm

DERELISE Bambo’s life is governed by five words: “No, Mom, don’t do it.”

These are the words of her two young children who have repeatedly prevented her from ending her life.

As a recovering addict, Bambo, from Bonteheuwel, has been living on the streets for two years.

“I have thought that God should rather take me away because I can’t handle life,” she said. “I want to end my life, but then my two boys stand by my side and tell me: ‘No, Mom, don’t do it.’”

She has tried to end it several times, but she believes she can turn her life around.

“At a day hospital, they told me that I am traumatised. I am stressed.”

Bambo’s drug habit started at an early age.

“I was raped when I was younger. I had a lot of problems. I was told that drugs can solve my problems. Now I have more stress,” she said, adding that her family kicked her out of their home when they caught her using tik.

“I have been on tik for two years and five months. I have come off it and I would like to go to rehab, get counselling and start a new life.” She said her two boys were separated – one stayed with her mother and the other with her aunt.

“I would like to be with them and have a normal life. The street life is not for me.”

These are the people the City of Cape Town hopes can be reintegrated into society. Councillor Beverley Corje-Alcock is the mayoral committee member for social and early childhood development. She is spearheading the pilot project on homelessness and calls it an “attempt to make a lasting change”.


She said the new initiative did not mimic clean-up attempts inspired by the Fifa World Cup 2010 when the government intended to hide all grime from foreign eyes.

She said the city’s three-month intervention involved six non-governmental organisations that dealt with issues of homelessness. Among these were child-care-focused facilities Homestead and Ons Plek.

Law enforcement officers, local and provincial social development departments and central improvement district bodies were also on board.

Corje-Alcock said social development department field officers and a displaced people’s unit had been dispatched to locate homeless people:

“We let them know what we are prepared to do for them. We ask them what they want to do next, knowing that they can’t remain on the streets.”

She said it was about giving real people real options.

Corje-Alcock said previously the stumbling block was that homelessness was only ever recognised as a law enforcement problem; people were removed from the street without being offered viable alternatives.

One of the city’s partners, Tygerberg Association for Street People (Tasp), in Bellville, assists homeless people with a free lunch and a daily shower. It has a makeshift church on its premises where Sunday morning services are brimming with tears and hallelujahs.

Pastor Hazel Louw dishes chicken, rice and vegetables for the homeless congregation.

According to her, homelessness is on the rise.

Louw also works as a counsellor with the Solid Foundation Children and Youth Ministries: “Some of their relationships were broken when they were still young. They were pushed out of their homes. They started doing drugs or robbing people.

“We bring them to church to deal with their spirituality. They come to see our counsellors who check what went wrong and why they are on the street. Sometimes they just needed to say sorry for something but could not.”


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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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