City to add 330 more shelter beds, two new Safe Spaces to help homeless off streets

18 Jan 2023 in Where We Govern

The City of Cape Town will add at least 330 more transitional shelter beds in the coming months to help more homeless off the streets in different parts of the metro. The City will soon file planning approval applications for two new ‘Safe Space’ dignified transitional shelter facilities, in Green Point and Durbanville. The planning approval process will include an opportunity for any affected parties to comment. 

The City plans to renovate two municipal-owned sites into Safe Spaces in the coming months to expand dignified transitional shelter and help more people off the streets in Cape Town. The City’s Safe Spaces offer two meals per day, showers and sanitation, and access to a range of care interventions. This includes referrals for mental health care, addiction treatment, job placement, family reunification, and help getting ID books.

A 300-bed Safe Space is on the cards for Green Point, to help people off the streets in the CBD and seaboard area. An underutilised portion of the City’s roads depot situated under the fly-over bridge on Ebenezer Road has been ear-marked for this purpose.

In total, there will be a 420-bed boost for Cape Town’s inner city, with around 120 shelter beds already added to the City’s Culemborg Safe Space in the east of the CBD during winter 2022. Yet more new beds will follow as the City works to help expand NGO-run shelters operating on municipal-owned land in central Cape Town, as well as the annual seasonal bed boost as part of the City’s Winter Readiness Campaign 2023.

In Durbanville, the City plans to include a 30 bed Safe Space in the new Durbanville Public Transport Interchange (PTI) development. 

Both the Green Point and Durbanville proposals will now follow the full regulatory and planning process before being implemented, during which comment by affected parties will be called for and duly considered.

‘We aim to create two new Safe Spaces within the coming months as part of our drive to help more people off the streets in Cape Town by expanding dignified transitional shelter. Over the last year, we have shifted the City’s policy to care interventions designed to help people off the streets on a sustainable basis. This is on the clear understanding that our city’s public spaces serve important economic and community needs. No person has the right to reserve a public space as exclusively theirs, while indefinitely refusing all offers of shelter and social assistance. Accepting social assistance to leave the streets is the best choice for dignity, health, and well-being,’ said Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis.

The new beds will bring Safe Space capacity up to 1 060 beds across several facilities in the CBD, Bellville, and Durbanville. The City is also making progress on re-purposing other municipal-owned sites elsewhere in the metro, working together with NGO partners, CIDs and residents.

The City has committed more than R142 million over a three-year period to expanding and operating Safe Spaces where these are most needed. This is over and above its ongoing support to NGOs assisting the homeless, including grant-in-aid funding and support to expand shelters operating on municipal land.

‘A large number of Capetonians living in public spaces suffer from mental afflictions, addiction, depression, psychosis, trauma, or familial abuse. This situation was exacerbated by extended national Covid-19 lockdowns and the related economic impact. For this reason, Safe Spaces offer care interventions designed to reintegrate people into society and help them off the streets on a sustainable basis,’ said Councillor Patricia van der Ross, Mayoral Committee Member for Community Services and Health.

Public Spaces must be open to all

The City’s Social Development & ECD officials are continuing with a city-wide process of conducting individual social assessments of those living on the streets. This includes the reasons for homelessness, physical and mental health, living conditions, and sources of income. This will result in a referral for social assistance, which can include accommodation at a shelter or City-run safe space.

‘While many people accept offers of help to get off the streets, sadly there are also many cases where those unlawfully occupying public spaces have consistently refused all offers of social assistance. In these instances, the City will acquire the necessary court order, and ensure that alternative accommodation at shelters or Safe Spaces has been offered, where this is just and equitable,’ said Mayor Hill-Lewis.

The Western Cape High Court recently ordered the eviction of those unlawfully occupying the public open space on Baxter Street in Durbanville who have consistently refused offers of social support.

The City will be approaching the courts for similar orders for hotspots around the City, including the CBD. These processes take time, as the City needs to establish the social circumstances and identities of those unlawfully occupying public spaces, and ensure there is a record of social assistance having been offered as a first resort.