City conducting social assessments of those living on the streets, offering shelter

26 May 2022 in Where We Govern

The City of Cape Town this week conducted a multi-departmental operation to address criminal activity and improve safety and dignity in the immediate vicinity of tented camps in the CBD. Urban Waste teams cleared discarded items and waste while Social Development professionals offered alternative shelter and social assistance to help people off the streets and recorded the responses. This is part of an ongoing city-wide effort to assess the social circumstances of people living on the streets. The City’s enforcement services conducted crime prevention operations where necessary, with several units of drugs confiscated and arrests made. Operations were filmed in line with protocol and only discarded items were cleared. 

In the last year alone, from May 2021 – April 2022, the direct efforts of City officials have resulted in:

  • 860+ people helped off the streets, through shelter placements, reunifying family and loved ones, and other forms of reintegration.
  • 1150+ people participating in development programmes at City-run Safe Spaces
  • 730+ EPWP work placements to help those staying at our Safe Spaces get back on their feet
  • 720+ referrals for social grants, identity documents, specialised care facilities, and substance abuse treatment – with an 80% Matrix programme success rate to address addiction as a key driver of why people end up on the streets.

This is aside from what is being achieved by civil society, and the City is planning to do much more together with NGO partners and the national and provincial government, who together hold the constitutional mandate for welfare and homeless shelters.

The City’s Care Programme to help people off the streets has been increased to R77 million in 2022/23 as the only metro going above its municipal mandate to dedicate a social development budget to this issue.

In addition, R10 million has been set aside to expand shelter beds at NGO-run shelters this winter. Expansion to the City’s Safe Spaces at Culemborg is also currently under way. Over the next three years, R142 million will go to operating and expanding City-run Safe Spaces beyond the CBD and Bellville.

The Safe Space model includes dignified shelter, comfort and ablutions, two meals per day, access to a social worker on-site, personal development planning, ID Book and social grant assistance, access to substance and alcohol abuse treatment, skills training, help finding a job, and EPWP work placement.

The two-year national state of disaster and related economic impact has led to unmatched levels of homelessness in the city, with many people sleeping in public places, including sidewalks, parks, road reserves, and under bridges.

Given this situation, only a unique and unprecedented response will help people off the streets in Cape Town and ensure that public places are available for wider public use.

The City of Cape Town is proactively dealing with this situation by stepping up efforts to assess the circumstances of those on the streets, and offer shelter or social assistance. City Social Development staff are currently busy with a city-wide process of conducting social assessments of those living on the streets. This includes the reasons for homelessness, physical and mental health, living conditions, sources of income. This will result in a referral for social assistance, which can include accommodation at a shelter or City-run safe space.

The City’s Streets By-law does not circumvent the need for a court order where a structure is considered a dwelling under the Prevention of Illegal Eviction and Unauthorised Occupation of Land (PIE) Act.

In these instances, the City will act within the law to acquire the necessary court order, and ensure alternative accommodation at shelters or safe spaces where this is just and equitable.

Cape Town’s public places serve important social, community and economic purposes, and must be open and available to all. No person has the right to reserve a public space as exclusively theirs, while indefinitely refusing all offers of shelter and social assistance. Accepting sustainable solutions off the streets is the best choice for dignity, health, and well-being.