An overnight sleeping facility for homeless people under the Culemborg Bridge in Cape Town's city centre was launched on Tuesday. The "Safe Space" is an initiative of the City's Social Development and Early Childhood Development Department and is intended to take strain off the shelter system as well as help reintegrate homeless people.
"This project has been in the making for five years and is an opportunity for a long-term solution to the City's homelessness crisis," said Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security; and Social Services, councillor JP Smith.
Smith said that shelters seem to have limited appeal, are full and often not located in areas that people are willing to go.
The Safe Space will provide up to 230 beds, water, showers, storage space and two-access toilets for those with disabilities. Mental and medical health services will be provided as well as social services to connect people with short-term job opportunities. There will also be law enforcement on site.
Smith said the City is currently in talks with soup kitchens in the area about providing meals at the Safe Space.
"I am so glad that I have a space now. I slept on the streets for five years. I hate being on the street," said Martin Lilane, one of the first people to be accommodated.
Smith said 11 homeless people were admitted at the Safe Space on 29 June to test the facility. He said the facility is expected to be fully operational by mid-July.
"This is a trial and error phase of the Safe Space initiative ... Critics must not be too harsh," said Smith.
See also: Cape Town to pilot "safe space" for homeless people