Dignity restored

Carin Rhoode and Rameez Kemp

With the help of homeless support NGO Souper Troopers, a couple living on the streets of the city centre are one step closer to reintegration into mainstream society.

Rameez Kemp has just started a tour guide course at Livingstone Tourism Academy in Gardens, while Carin Rhoode’s beading business is booming.

Mr Kemp and Ms Rhoode said they had lost hope of ever getting off the streets when new inspiration came to them, and with the help of the Troopers, they are able to earn an income, as well as a new lease on life.

Ms Rhoode said she had always been involved with the Souper Troopers, but it was when the organisation lent support to her during a case against the City for fining and confiscating homeless people’s’ belongings, which caused public outrage, that she started becoming more involved (“City taken to task”, CapeTowner, August 19 2019).

Souper Trooper Caryn Gootkin befriended the couple, and helped Ms Rhoode establish her beading business.

Ms Rhoode had already been making beaded necklaces and earrings from beads she picked up on Greenmarket Square, but last year, the Souper Troopers took her under their wing, and people started donating boxes of beads, which Ms Rhoode now uses to make up to 60 necklaces, earrings, bracelets and decorations from her workspace in Woodstock.

She said the Souper Troopers sent her on an embroidery workshop, when she had the idea to incorporate embroidery in her bead work.

Ms Rhoode’s beadwork is bought by the Souper Troopers, who sell it on an online “Souper” Market.

Mr Kemp’s break came when he and Ms Rhoode dropped off some of her stock with Ms Gootkin, and they chatted about doing homeless tours in the city centre. Mr Kemp said the aim of the tour would be to show tourists what life was like on the streets, so to give Ms Gootkin an idea, he drew up a route which included the Arch, where many soup kitchens run from; a walk through the Company’s Garden, where homeless people live and some try to earn a living; then into Plein Street, past the Hope Exchange at Roeland Street, and ending at the Service Dining Room.

While the plan is still in its early stages, it impressed Ms Gootkin so much that she decided to do some research, and realised they could not do tours unless it had registered tour guides.

“When we got to talking, Rameez was the obvious person. He was trying hard to improve his life, and he loves talking, interacting with people and has a warm personality, she said.”

Ms Gootkin said a generous sponsor donated the full fees for Mr Kemp to study to become a tour guide.

Ms Rhoode said she had never seen Mr Kemp as excited as he was when he received the news.

“He almost jumped through the roof of the tent.” Mr Kemp said the two-week course teaches students about historical landmarks such as the Company’s Garden, Robben Island and V&A Waterfront, among others; communication and language skills and how to interact with tourists.

He had attended every class so far.

After he graduates, he will receive an accredited Level 4 tour guide certificate.

Mr Kemp said while he was grateful for the opportunity, he said no opportunity given will work out if not well received.

“I had the right attitude and I grabbed it with both hands. When you live on the streets, many opportunities pop up, but they only go half-way, then the person stops supporting you, or the contract ends, or the person doesn’t call back. This is the first time something has came full circle. And now, there are no more excuses – we don’t wish to get things done, we get things done.”

He said his end goal is to start his own tour company, and is excited for the establishment of the homeless tours.

Meanwhile, Ms Rhoode is making stock to take to markets, which is the next step to growing her business.

“My ultimate goal is to get myself a place I call home. I don’t want to live on the streets another year. While I don’t make enough yet, I can work towards getting myself a home.”

She said she and Mr Kemp have been through a lot on the streets, but they were survivors, and they wanted to show other homeless people that they, too, can make it. “The situation won’t be like this forever – all we have to do is show up.”

Mr Rhoode said she was also prepared to empower other homeless people and teach them the skills she learnt.