The Big Issue #286
- 20 June – 19 July 2020 is available from your favourite vendor across the city.
It remains a tragedy of epic proportions that the plight of some 7 000 homeless citizens remains intractably unsolved by one of the wealthiest municipalities in the country. With leading academics, robust activists, health, housing and nutrition experts, as well as the homeless people themselves all living side by side, it is astounding that no sensible conversation is taking place to solve the problem of homelessness.
In this period, and as a result of the various lockdown levels, many communities suffer from ongoing and worsening levels of hunger, unemployment, lack of income and economic downturn. They are also experiencing social distress due to strict restrictions relating to funerals, religious events and a cessation of normal social interactions from family gatherings. The lockdown has also turned the spotlight on the needs of our homeless community, from the growing number of individuals sleeping rough across our city to their holistic care relating to health, psychosocial, emotional and rehabilitative needs.
In early March our leadership team at Christel House South Africa held multiple workshops to prepare for school closure. We knew that we would act in the best interest of our children and we asked ourselves, if we don’t act and we look back one day, how will history judge us?
So when President Ramaphosa announced that schools would close, our principals and leaders were ready, and within 36 hours we sent our children home with food parcels, learning packs, donated tablets, SIM cards and lots of hope. They knew we would be there for them and instead of a physical community; we would have a virtual community – just as close, just as supportive, just as caring.
In the early 1980s it was becoming clear that the number of people living on the streets of central Cape Town was growing – it was estimated that there were more than 1 000 homeless people here. A group of five business friends began to study the problem and to seek solutions. Arising out of these discussions grew the idea to find a venue where training in carpentry and other skills could be offered to homeless people, and where they could be provided with a hot meal daily.
In 1981 a suitable premises was found at 14a Roeland Street. The Carpenter’s Shop consisted of a large vacant three-storey school building and grounds. It had stood derelict since 1975, when its pupils were removed with their families to places far out of town, in terms of the Group Areas Act. Several months ago it was renamed The Hope Exchange.
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More from this Issue:
- Agents of Change
- City Life