Stealing the hearts of the homeless

Muslim Hands programme manager, Sheikh Hashim Peck, accounts manager Ismail Fakee with Paulo Molefe, who is thanking them for the food.

As part of its Out in the Cold winter campaign, outreach organisation Muslim Hands visited the Culembourg Safe Space to hand out blankets, soup, bread and beanies to the homeless people living there.

More than 200 homeless people stood in the rain on Tuesday July 30 to receive their meals and blankets, which, for some, was a highlight of the winter day.

Muslim Hands fund-raising manager, Imraan Roomany, said the campaign, also known as the Ubushushu, has been running since 2008, and every year, the organisation goes into different areas in the City Bowl to feed the homeless.

The campaign runs for about three months, throughout the winter months, he said.

The items received for the drive were donated, said Mr Roomany. “Every year we choose different areas to benefit as many people as possible.”

Addressing the homeless, Sheikh Hashim Peck said: “We pray that your conditions improve, but for now, we will do all that we can to make it easier for you.”

The project co-ordinator at the Safe Space, Erica Arendse, said there were a number of organisations which came to feed the people at the space. “We are not allowed to cook on-site, so people come weekly with pop-up kitchens, and it works really well. We encourage people who come to bring ready-made food.”

She said there were 200 people on the site. “Up to now, we had 644 people go through the system since we opened last year. Some are reunited with their families, some are still here, and some just stay away, but we’ve had a number of success stories, which is encouraging.”

The Safe Space is not a shelter, but serves as a transitional measure. The purpose was to create a more accommodating environment for homeless people who did not want to go to shelters.

At the Safe Space, homeless people have access to showers, toilets and lockers, while social workers and NGOs provide a range of services (“Haven for the homeless”, CapeTowner, March 2, 2018).

Ms Arendse said the homeless people were encouraged to go about their daily lives after they woke up in the morning, however, when the weather is bad, they are allowed to stay at the space.

“We are now working on getting mattresses for the pallets that the people are sleeping on, and we also want to waterproof the back fence. We have MyCiTi buses travelling through here, and when they do, the water splashes through the fence, wetting people’s belongings.”

Merle St Clair, who has been living at the safe space for six months, said she particularly appreciated the blanket, as it was cold at the Safe Space. “It’s an act of kindness.When people do good to us, we should praise the Lord for putting it in their hearts to help us.”

Crystal Anne William, who also lives at the Safe Space, said all the gestures were appreciated. “Most people who live here can’t afford homes, let alone food and blankets. Most of the time, we don’t even know where our next meal is coming from.”

She said the blankets and beanies would help as people often complained about the cold.

Jason Spilsbury said he appreciated people who took time out to support the homeless.

To organise a pop-up kitchen, or to assist with mattresses or donations, contact Erica at streetpeoplessafespace@gmail.com or 021 8010130.