13 May 2018

South Africa: 'This Place, Honestly, Has Saved My Life'

Photo: Eryn Scannell/GroundUp
Happy Valley Home, which has 65 beds, will get an additional ten this winter.

Shelters to get boost from City of Cape Town for winter

"Come back 15 May. We will have more beds then," the manager of Happy Valley Home in Simon's Town tells a homeless man.

Happy Valley is one of the nine organisations that will receive aid from the City of Cape Town this winter from 15 May to 30 September. The shelter will get ten additional beds. Shelters will also receive additional groceries, blankets, mattresses, toiletries and cleaning materials. This is "to help cater for an expected increase in the number of street people seeking shelter during the cold winter months" according to a City press release.

The City's "winter readiness plan" adds 276 beds for the homeless, and supplies for seven organisations in Cape Town, according to Councillor JP Smith.

Happy Valley Home can accommodate 65 residents, 45 men and 20 women. The shelter could only add ten additional bed spaces because of limited space. Its beds are almost always full.

During the winter homeless people "cry at the gate" said the manager, who did not wish to be named.

Happy Valley Home does not charge people to stay, but asks for a monthly contribution of up to R650. Residents get three meals per day, seven days a week.

Darren Feldman, who came to Happy Valley almost a year ago, said, "This place, honestly, has saved my life."

When he arrived, he "couldn't string a sentence together" he said. He had just completed his eighth drug rehabilitation program, but the rehab centre closed down, leaving Feldman homeless.

At the shelter he created a personal development plan with the manager and set goals to reintegrate with society, as do all the Happy Valley Home residents. The shelter also helps people gain employment by assisting them with CVs and obtaining ID documents for them.

Feldman now works at the City's waste department. "I've come out the other side," he said. He hopes to rebuild his relationship with his wife and two children and reunite his family. "My dream is to be totally independent and send money home to my kids and donate money here [to Happy Valley]," said Feldman.

According to a street people report conducted in 2015 by the Directorate of Social Development and Early Childhood Development, there were 7,383 homeless people in the City. The report stated 4,862 people slepts on the streets and 2,521 in shelters. 79% were male and nearly three-quarters were between the ages of 26 and 45.

Click here to see a breakdown of the shelters, number of beds for women and men, and cost.

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