Influx of homeless in valley raises concern

A group of homeless people have been living under the Clovelly bridge for many years.

Opportunistic crime is following growing numbers of street people venturing into far-south neighbourhoods, says Fish Hoek Community Police Forum chairman Andre Blom.

The trend follows the City’s closure of its Covid-19 homeless shelter in Strandfontein, and it’s aggravated by residents who feed the homeless and give them blankets, he says.

That might seem like the human thing to do, he says, but it only encourages the homeless to stay on the streets while hampering rehabilitation efforts of organisations such at the Net.

According to Mr Blom, the homeless are behind many opportunistic crimes in the valley, but they seem to be above the law.

“They enter private properties, public spaces and the wetlands and erect shelters and build homes and make fires in hazardous areas yet they remain untouchable,” he said.

For years, homeless people had lived under Clovelly bridge, yet SAPS, the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) and City law enforcement had shifted responsibility for moving them, he said.

Fish Hoek police station commander Lieutenant Colonel Jackie Johnson said that while the homeless were to blame for some opportunistic crimes, not all of them who committed those crimes were from the valley. Some came into the area on bin days, she said.

In May a group of about 25 homeless people living in Muizenberg Park and surrounds protested, carrying placards, saying they wanted to stay sober and take responsibility for their own lives (“Homeless looking for a place to call home,” Echo May 21). However, two months later, they are still on the streets.

Muizenberg Improvement District (MID) chairman Peter Corbett said while it was not the responsibility of the MID, it would do all it could to find a permanent solution.

When the Strandfontein facility had closed, council vehicles had ferried the Muizenberg homeless to the park behind the police station and left them there, he said. Later, community groups had given them tents and they were still living in them.

He accused the City of reneging on an agreement to build a homeless shelter in Muizenberg, and said closing all public toilets from 4pm to 7.30am added to an already unhygienic situation in the park.

Kornel Steyn, who lives near the park, said his five-year-old daughter had, for several weeks now, had nightmares about the “people in the park”.

He said: “They shout obscenities to us when we sit in our yard, and they can see into our second-storey windows and onto our porch from where they are.”

The homeless had made the park unusable for everyone, by turning it into a health hazard with faeces everywhere. It could hurt tourism after the Covid-19 pandemic cleared, he warned.

“We are intimidated and shouted at when we go outside to our car,” he said, accusing the City of always making excuses. There is no way that these people are allowed here even under lockdown regulations. We have also been logging calls with the City about this since last year, way before lockdown, and they have never done a thing. Using lockdown regulations is just a very convenient excuse to avoid fulfilling your obligations.”

A few years ago, his house had been burgled on the very day he had seen people from the park looking through the windows, he said.

Mayoral committee member for community service and health, Zahid Badroodien denied the claims made by MID. He said those who had left the Strandfontein shelter had asked to be returned to the streets, and the City’s displaced persons unit had dropped them off where they had been collected from originally.

“As far as the City is concerned, there was never a commitment to establish a safe space in Muizenberg. Sites were explored but to date no site has been confirmed.”

Ward councillor Aimee Kuhl said the City had set up shelters and social development programmes, but those relied on the homeless being willing to accept help. The homeless could not be forced off the streets, she added.

City law enforcement spokesman Wayne Dyason said it was not illegal to be homeless and live on the streets. At present, he said, the homeless could not be relocated due to lockdown regulations.

Muizenberg police station commander Colonel Vassie Naidoo said there had been no recent report or complaints about the homeless.

Mr Blom urged the community to report bad behaviour or any other incidents to the police so it could be placed on record.

Anti-social behaviour can be reported to City law enforcement at 021 480 7700.