U-Turn pulls out of Fish Hoek

The U-Turn service centre bus that was stationed in Fish Hoek.

U-Turn, a non-profit organisation that helps the homeless, has withdrawn its services from Fish Hoek.

The inability to secure long-term premises in Fish Hoek was the main reason, said U-Turn spokesman Stephen Underwood.

The announcement was made at a community meeting at Fullies Church on Tuesday February 21.

In June last year, U-Turn launched a “service centre” in a double-decker bus in a parking lot behind the Caltex petrol station while trying to secure a suitable long-term venue. At the same time, a cashless voucher system, the Mi-change vouchers, was launched, allowing the public to help the homeless without giving them money (“Cashless way to help the homeless,” Echo, June 30, 2022).

However, in September the bus was removed from Fish Hoek for refurbishment after it was vandalised and copper wires and diesel were stolen. U-Turn continued offering services from the Kalk Bay Community Church (“U-Turn services temporarily relocated,” Echo, September 28, 2022).

The vouchers can still be redeemed for food, clothing, and toiletries at the Muizenberg service centre as well as any other U-Turn service centre in Cape Town, said Mr Underwood.

Homelessness was surging in Cape Town, and Fish Hoek was no exception, he said.

The community had responded “wonderfully” with several businesses and churches helping to sell vouchers that were distributed by the public, and as the cash in Fish Hoek had “dried up”, the homeless seeking services had steadily increased, he said. However, as more homeless people had sought help, U-Turn staff had experienced increased intimidation from gangs and drug dealers in the area.

“Despite community buy-in and the amazing success of many homeless clients, U-Turn was unable to secure long-term premises, with promises of support from local stakeholders falling through. Landlords and churches have been unwilling or unable to help and the need for a secure venue became increasingly urgent.”

The temporary move to Kalk Bay had not been well supported by the Fish Hoek community, and the number of homeless seeking services there had “steadily decreased”, he said. Mi-change voucher usage had also dropped, as residents believed there were no services in Fish Hoek.

For U-Turn’s services to return to Fish Hoek, an appropriate venue and support from local stakeholders were needed, said Mr Underwood.

“With so much need in the wider city, U-Turn can no longer maintain a service centre in an area where they are not getting traction.”

U-Turn planned to open a shop in Fish Hoek, where formerly homeless people could find work and training.

“U-Turn holds the wider Fish Hoek community in high esteem and appreciates the efforts made by local churches, residents, civic groups, and businesses to assist in the work.”

Soteria Ministries director Johann Kikillus said it was “very sad” to see U-Turn leave Fish Hoek.

“The team did an excellent job considering that they walked into a perfect storm last year.”

Mr Kikillus said the number of homeless people had increased exponentially in the last two years, and it would take more than one organisation to tackle homelessness.

“I propose that a meeting be held soon between government, churches, businesses, and non-profits to discuss a strategy moving forward. Winter is coming and our most vulnerable need help,” he said.

Fish Hoek Business Improvement District (BID) chairman Marc Yates said they were grateful to U-Turn for its efforts over the last year in Fish Hoek.