The Big Issue #286

  • 20 June – 19 July 2020 is available from your favourite vendor across the city.

The crisis we refuse to see

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.

Wanted: Partnerships that effect change

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.

How will history judge us?

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.

A hopeful exchange

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:


  • All
  • Agents of Change
  • City Life
  • Feature
  • News

Floral Inspiration

“There are always flowers for those who want to see them.” Henri Matisse

How will history judge us?

Adri Marais, CEO of Christel House South Africa, turns the spotlight on the fractures in South African society revealed by COVID-19, and explores feasible solutions to issues such as homelessness.

A hopeful exchange

Cape Town’s The Hope Exchange began in the 1980s as The Carpenter’s Shop, offering homeless people carpentry training and a hot meal. Founder member and chairman of Maynards Office Technology, Geoff Burton shares this social enterprise’s remarkable journey.

The crisis we refuse to see

It Remains a tragedy of epic proportions that the plight of some 7 000 homeless citizens remain intractably unsolved by one of the wealthiest municipalities in the country, writes Community Chest CEO Lorenzo Davids

Wanted: Partnerships that effect change

COVID-19 is pushing available services to the limit and testing a fragile interdependent and complex system, writes Zahid Badroodien, mayoral committee member for Community Services and Health at the City of Cape Town.

Cynthia Gogotya

The Big Issue vendor Cynthia Gogotya is a role model to her family, community and fellow vendors. She shares her experiences of the last three months.

Leslie Collins

Over the past 18 months, life has been somewhat of a rollercoaster ride for Big Issue vendor Leslie Collins. The veteran vendor tells us about some of his experiences.

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