A volunteer group working with the homeless has shown some interest in an abandoned house in Central Circle which has become a nightmare for neighbours.
The house at 65 A and B
Central Circle was vacated in 2012 when its owner, Brian Jutzen relocated to Australia. It has since become home to vagrants and alleged drug dealers.
Residents and neighbours have lodged several complaints with the City of Cape Town, but their pleas appear to have fallen on deaf ears (“Abandoned house nightmare,” Echo, February 21, 2019).
Carolyn Axmann, founder of The Net, an organisation that works with the homeless, said she was interested in buying the house to run The Net out of.
She said she had tried to get hold of the owner but had “not had any joy”.
“I do believe this is an option, and while I know many residents have concerns that this will attract more homeless individuals to the area, I do believe it can be managed in a controlled way to reduce the negative impact on people living around the civic centre and Central Circle. “I would love to be given the responsibility to help turn something negative into something positive,” she said.
Last year, the Echo reported that the house was completely stripped and an empty shell.
Neighbours said it was a health hazard as used condoms and needles were regularly found on the property. They said police could not arrest trespassers without the owner of the property pressing charges.
Fish Hoek police spokesman, Warrant Officer Peter Middelton, confirmed that.
He said an arrest could only be carried out once the owners or appointed owners of the property opened a case with SAPS. It was a requirement should the case go to court.
Patricia Hebbard, who lives across the road, said she was not in favour of turning the house into an office for The Net.
“It will bring a bigger problem to our doorstep. Our property prices have already plunged so the answer is a resounding no,” she said.
“There was commotion at the clinic two weeks ago and two men jumped into the yard and were trying to break into the hall, behind the clinic,” she said.
Another neighbour, Mark Kilbride, said that while he believed The Net had good intentions, its feeding programme and attempt to reintroduce vagrants back into society without being linked to shelter accommodation complicated the situation.
“We as residents in the area bear the brunt of the fall-out. With no shelters in the area, we have to deal with vagrants sleeping in community areas and all the ills that it brings with it,” he said.
He feared The Net’s interest in the abandoned house would draw vagrants to the doorstep and although the organisation said it wanted to use the property as an office, it would most likely double up as a feeding station.
Shirley Smith, who lives near the civic centre, said she was often harassed by homeless people when she left her property.
She suggested a drug rehabilitation centre in a suitable area, not among residential houses.
The library park and entrance to the civic centre were “disgusting and covered in litter and human waste”, she said.
“I am totally against the idea of using that derelict house as a base to feed the homeless. I don’t feel safe in my property as it is.”
But Ms Axmann said she would not be operating a soup kitchen or feeding scheme from there and the homeless would be expected to use formal ablution facilities within the venue and remain in a programme for the duration of the day, and so would be kept off the surrounding streets.
She said they would only be able to access breakfast in return for attending a morning interpersonal workshop and dinner in return for working through the day.
“At least they won’t have a derelict building attracting vagrants and addicts. It would be repaired and utilised for good,” she said.
Last year, the City said the house, which was declared a problem building in 2017, complied with the Problem Building By-Law 2010 as it was boarded up and had a “no trespassing” sign on the property.
At the time, the executive director for safety and security,
Richard Bosman, said it was up to the owner to deal with the trespassing by laying a charge with the police as the City did not conduct evictions on private property.
The Echo visited the house on Friday May 8 and only two windows were boarded up. There were no “no trespassing” signs in sight.
The Echo asked Mr Bosman when last the property had been inspected to see if it was
compliant with the Problem Building By-Law; whether the rates had been paid in full; and how residents should contact the owner to report trespassing.
Mr Bosman said the problem building unit’s office was currently off limits as it was undergoing a routine decontamination and
officials could not access documents relevant to the case. The offices are still closed.
The Echo tried to contact Mr Jutzen via email on Tuesday May 12 and on Facebook Messenger on Thursday May 14 but to date have not had any response.