SANZAF brings warmth to homeless

Homeless people on the Grand Parade line up as Sanzaf volunteers get ready to distribute food.

Homeless people on the Grand Parade were treated to a warm meal last Wednesday evening, April 19, courtesy of the South African Zakah Fund (SANZAF) who are kicking off their National Winter Warmth Project.

Street people queued to receive soup made and distributed by Sanzaf volunteers during their first campaign in the city centre.

And while the volunteers say they were fulfilled by the amount of homeless people they fed, there were many lessons learnt as they prepare to organise another drive in the CBD.

Sanzaf is a non-profit, faith-based organisation that aims to improve the lives of the underprivileged in South Africa.

Spokesperson Sakeena Bock said Sanzaf is funded through members of the organisation providing zakah – a money offering – and then saying what they want it to be used for. The organisation then tries to use the money considering the donors.

While the annual Winter Warmth Project is one of their biggest projects, this was the first time that they have provided support to the street people at the Grand Parade, said Ms Bock.

“Sanzaf focuses on people in need – primary schools, youth, elderly and the homeless. The Winter Warmth Project is the longest and biggest project, as many people don’t have the necessities they need to prepare them for winter.”

She said they have already handed out blankets and warm meals at the stables in Bromwell Street in neighbouring Woodstock, and provided poorer schools in the Boland with school-packs which contained scarves, beanies, gloves, a wind-breaker and shoes. “It might not be enough but it is something. We are just trying to spread the love.”

She said homelessness is an ongoing challenge for the entire city, and not just the CBD. “With the Winter Warmth Project, we look at various communities, but this year we decided to come into the city centre as well. A lot of people on the Grand Parade are walking around and people think they are going home, but then they are sleeping in alleyways, under bridges or in any gaps they can find in town. The Parade is a thoroughfare for homeless people who are just trying to find a space to sleep.”

Shafiek Barense, the head of distribution and projects of Sanzaf, said one of the challenges they faced was time management and a shortage of volunteers.

“Our volunteers all do this out of the goodness of their hearts. We had food stuff donated for the soup, and volunteers came from work and prepared the food, so we ran a bit late. We need to get more volunteers so that we can better prepare for the next food and blanket drive.”

He said despite this, they were excited about the work done on the night. “We can’t do a lot but the little we can do gets done.”

Yasmina Francke, the general manager of Sanzaf Western Cape, said the first night on the Parade was another learning curve for the organisation. “We want to gear people up for winter, and this experience gave us a feel for the area, the need in the area and helps us with our next logistics plan.

“We try to reach as many places as we can, and, just like in every instance, we get to engage with communities, listen to what they need and test the waters. It is a learning process for us, and we are happy to learn and try new grounds. The idea is that we get some insight and use that knowledge to expand our services.”

She said the next project for the CBD, which will happen in the next few weeks, is having a drive at the Company’s Garden.

Shamiela du Toit, who was in line to get a hot meal, said she was very grateful for it. She said she has been living on the streets of Cape Town for 20 years, and has three children living with relatives. “Since I have been living here, the Law Enforcement officers sometimes confiscate our belongings, then we are left with nothing, and the winters are cold. I am always grateful to the people who think of us and provide us with blankets and food. I want to say thank you to them for reaching out to us.”

Umar Suleiman has been living between the city centre and Sea Point for 10 years.

He said organisations used to hold blanket drives and hand out food, but some of the street people became aggressive and rude, and he believes that’s why it stopped for a while.
“It’s a mutual respect that we should have for authorities, volunteers and for others alike. But I am grateful to these people and to the Central City Improvement District for trying to keep the order.”