Helping hand for homeless

“Someone told me ‘a rich man is a poor man with money’ and I think this is wonderful, because it levels all of us, and that’s something I’ve learnt from this project,” said Helene Rademeyer, the market developer for Streetscape’s Dignity Sandwiches project.

Streetscape’s Dignity Sandwiches, run by NGO Khulisa Social Solutions, is part of a project whereby homeless people, after they have gone through rehabilitation, are placed into a working environment to help reintegrate them into society.

With Dignity Sandwiches, homeless people who want to work are trained to make bread and sandwiches under the watchful eye of the House of H eatery’s staff, Ms Rademeyer, and intern, Gcobani Dyantyi to help get their business up and running. “There is a need for people to eat and have lunch, and we decided to cater for that need and formed a partnership with House of H,” said Ms Rademeyer.

She said the House of H, a new eatery on Loop Street, had come on board after they learnt about the Streetscape’s Garden Project, a food garden set up in the city centre next to Fruit and Veg City, where homeless people plant fruit and vegetables, then sell the produce. The owner of House of H, Heinrich Koen, said when he and his wife Christina opened House of H about two months ago, they started shopping around for fresh produce, and found the Streetscape Garden. He decided to partner with the project to teach some of the homeless people cooking and baking skills, and in turn, he would get fresh vegetables from the garden.

“The garden project was growing fast and getting the street people busy, and, being a chef for 15 years, I’ve trained more than 150 people in my career,” said
Mr Koen.

He then took Theresa Solomons under his wing, and he and his team taught her how to bake bread. Ms Solomons, 50, who had lived on the street for three years, now bakes bread with the team once a week.

House of H supplies the fillings of chicken, cheese, beef, all used in the restaurant, for the sandwiches.

The sandwiches are sold to people who pre-order them at prices ranging from R25 to R35, depending on the filling. Platters at R250 were also introduced.

“With the Streetscape Project there is a lot to offer the people. It’s hard bringing someone new into the kitchen because things are done a certain way, but its a give and take situation. I get vegetables and the person gets skilled training,” said Mr Koen.

Mr Koen said that Nomakhosi “Mama” Jamjam who makes the bread for the restaurant is Theresa’s age, so they can relate to each other and work well together. “It’s about building a person.”

Ms Rademeyer said while the House of H are getting vegetables in the exchange, it is a small price to pay for what the staff has to offer. “The plan is to give and receive skills. The restaurant needs the veggies we grow, and they help us integrate the homeless. But they do it because they see the improvement in Theresa and because they have big hearts.”

Because the project is still a new one, Ms Rademeyer said that the sandwiches are made and sold only once a week, but they need people to place orders so that the business can grow.

“We are up to 22 sandwiches a day. When we started, it was about 12. If we sell 100 sandwiches a day, we can employ 50 people daily, and that’s 50 people off the street.”

However, she said that before they build the business, the focus now is to get Ms Solomons into a routine and to keep the quality of the sandwiches consistent.

Ms Solomons, who had been on the street for three years before entering Khulisa’s rehabilitation project, said that it was fascinating to learn to bake again. “I could bake before, but after I started living on the street I thought I could never bake again. They tested me at House of H and I could do it.”

Ms Solomons said she landed up on the street after her husband died and she could no longer afford to pay the rent for her house in Manenberg, so she was evicted.

She decided to get her life back on trackbecause the streets “wasn’t for her”.

“It is dangerous to be on the streets if you are a woman alone. You can get harassed or raped or abused.”

She now lives with her sister in Manenberg.

She said she has learned alot at House of H. “It is a nice place to work, they teach me how to work in a restaurant – I’ve never worked in a restaurant before. But after I work long hours my legs get tired.”

She said at the end of the project, she would like to earn more money. “I want to earn a proper wage, but the project is still new, so I am not complaining. It will take some time – South Africa wasn’t built in a day.”

BLOB: A minimum of five sandwiches need to be pre-ordered two days in advanced. For information or to place your order, contact Ms Rademeyer at rademeyer.helene@gmail.com, or call or WhatsApp her on 083 294 2452 before 5pm.