Durbanville organisations talk homelessness

Community organisations working in Durbanville, including Mould Empower Serve (MES), met recently to discuss ways to tackle homelessness in the area.

The organisations met under the auspices of the Local Network of Care (LNOC) initiative, on Thursday April 19. The network is a City of Cape Town plan aimed at tackling issues of homelessness across the metro. It is run by the City’s Social Development and Early Childhood Development Directorate.

MES branch manager, Lilly Franks, spoke on the challenges they faced in helping the homeless to become self-sustainable. MES works in the area to better homeless people’s lives.

Ms Franks said hand-outs often hampered their efforts to empower homeless people. She said people gave to the homeless for several reasons, including feeling sorry for them, religious beliefs, self satisfaction and corporate social investments.

“At MES we have a firm stance against hand-outs,” she said.

“Why would anyone want to make a change if they are being given food, money and blankets which they don’t have to work for.”

Ms Franks said MES had identified growing up in broken and abusive homes, traumatic events, identity issues, rejection, lack of education and job opportunities as the main reasons for homelessness.

Ms Franks said through their GROW (God Restores Our World) job rehabilitation programme they wanted to change the mindsets of homeless people by equipping them with skills and teaching them to work for their money or food.

The programme was launched in 2014 and it paved the way for the further expansion of vocational skills training and job placement.

Ms Franks said better interventions, not hand-outs, were needed to eradicate homelessness.

“People often offer the homeless a job and find that for the first day or two everything is fine, but after that, they simply don’t show up. They are not used to working eight hours a day or even working – it’s a process,” she said.

Ms Franks said rehabilitation was the answer to homelessness. However, it was a long process that required lots of patience.

“If you grow up seeing your parents begging on the streets — that’s the only thing you are going to do as you don’t know any better. The longer they are on the streets the harder it is(to rehabilitate them).”

In a period of 15 years, from 2002 to 2017, MES has grown its budget from R2 million to R34 million. This shows the growing need, according to Ms Franks.

She said children from other areas came into Durbanville because they knew people gave donations.

Ms Franks said they needed a buy-in from the community not to give hand-outs irresponsibly.

“Change is not easy, but it has to happen,” she said.

MES runs a safe space, in Bellville, which provides homeless people with a safe place to sleep for R8.