Fish Hoek needs help

Johann Kikillus, director Soteria Ministries, Fish Hoek

I recently had coffee with a colleague at a coffee shop on Fish Hoek Main Road. This colleague drove here from the southern suburbs and commented how run down Fish Hoek had become since his last visit two years ago.

The next day, while having a conversation with a police officer, I was informed that Beach Road had become a major problem. Then U-Turn, who are doing a sterling job with the homeless, had to move out of Fish Hoek.

Since that conversation, I have walked on Beach Road and Main Road every day. The air is filled with the smell of urine and dagga along the entire route. There is human waste all over the place as well as litter.

The station is especially foul and is now covered with graffiti – more evidence of the gang presence. People I speak to complain about the ongoing muggings and fights. The buildings look tired and pavements are littered with broken glass.

I have been coming to Fish Hoek for close on 50 years, and it has never looked so bad. This is not creating a positive environment for business, and several business owners have told me that they are close to giving up.

I think that there are two issues that need to be addressed. Firstly, the social problems. U-Turn is trying really hard to engage with the growing homeless problem, which always increases when summer arrives.

The growing gang problem is a huge concern especially as we now have rival gangs on the streets. I am willing to engage with any gangster who wishes to turn his life around. There are others who can assist with the many addicts who openly use drugs.

Secondly, we need to clean Fish Hoek up again. It is unacceptable that conditions have been allowed to deteriorate to such an extent. I notice that tour buses are back again, and I almost feel embarrassed when they drive up Beach Road. I would like to hear what our mayor can do to make Fish Hoek a world-class tourist destination again.

• Fish Hoek police spokesman Warrant Officer Peter Middleton responds: There had been an increase in robberies on Beach Road in August and September but four suspects have been arrested. No incidents have been reported for October.

• Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis responds: I want to thank Mr Kikillus for being an active citizen and doing his part to contribute towards our communities.

With regards to the state of the train station, my office will escalate this to the head of office of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa, as the building is owned by national government and not the City of Cape Town.

While the City is doing its utmost through continuous investment in our law enforcement and public safety services, including calling on national government to grant more policing power for City law enforcement officers, the SAPS remains the primary agency responsible for crime prevention. Maintaining law and order in our beautiful city is a shared responsibility, so if you see something, please report it.

The City also logs hundreds of service requests daily, either telephonically or via our online portal, and these include requests for cleaning, graffiti removal, grass cutting and many other services that fall within our mandate.

In terms of the homelessness mentioned by Mr Kikillus, it is a fact that we have experienced an increase in persons living on our streets and public spaces since the Covid-19 pandemic. The causes are varied and complex, with solutions requiring the resources of time, people, land, and finance to be made available.

Although social welfare falls outside of local government’s constitutional mandate, the City is increasingly stepping into the breach to provide tangible assistance to help people off the streets. These interventions are continuing on a daily basis together with our civil society partners. We are investigating how we can do even more, by expanding access to dignified transitional shelter, coupled with social programmes focusing on reintegration into society.

The City plans to spend at least R140 million over three years to expand and operate its Safe Spaces beyond the CBD and Bellville. This includes identifying potential sites for new transitional Safe Spaces, as well as efforts to increase capacity at a number of existing shelters.

The Safe Space model offers a dignified transitional shelter pathway off the streets, along with a range of social services, from access to an on-site social worker to personal development planning.

Together with various NGOs and ward councillors, the City is pursuing these localised Safe Spaces and conducting feasibility studies to determine their suitability. These new sites will be made available to help people off the streets in various neighbourhoods.

I am especially encouraged by the work done to identify a new Safe Space on City-owned land in the Green Point CBD – with extensive capacity potential – as well as the work done by the local improvement district and City officials to identify municipal-owned land in the Muizenberg area for a similar purpose. More details on these sites will be announced once feasibility is complete. The City is also working with the Haven Night Shelter to increase bed spaces at some of their facilities operating on municipal-owned land.

With the help of proactive and caring citizens, councillors, and NGOs, we can help more people off the streets together.