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RESPONDING TO VAGRANCY

The City of Cape Town acknowledges that there are over 7400 vagrants (or homeless people) living on the streets in the metro [as of official cited figures in July 2017].  Of those, approximately 2500 live in the city bowl area.

Each month more and more people become displaced from their original communities, are released on parole from jail or arrive in our city as refugee migrants from beyond our country's borders. The result of this has been an ever increasing influx of people living in public open spaces, under bridges and sometimes trespassing on private property.

 

Listen to CapeTalk's John Maytham interview Alderman JP Smith the Mayoral Committee
Member For Safety And Security on this subject.

 

CRIMINALITY & VAGRANCY FIT HAND IN GLOVE

Lately, there has been a shift in the demographics of vagrants from indigent people out of luck and work, to criminal elements who stroll the streets looking for easy targets to commit crime for a living. (e.g. breaking into cars, mugging people, drug dealing, prostitution and house breaking).

A report published by Solidarity Helping Hand states that ‘most beggars on the street are drug addicts – as many as  80% to 90%.'

Interviews conducted by Solidarity senior researcher Nicolien Welthagen, showed that 20% of the money beggars receive goes towards food, while the rest is spent on drugs.

Many criminally inclined vagrants masquerade as car guards (illegal parking marshals), wearing high visibility bibs. Often these bibs are used to camouflage their criminal intent, making unsuspecting pedestrians and motorists believe they are providing a security service, when in fact they are casing the area.

BYLAWS RELATED TO VAGRANTS

The city of Cape Town's Bylaw Relating to Streets, Public Spaces and the Prevention of Noise Nuisances of 2007 prohibits certain behaviour relating to vagrants, including:

  • Blocking of interfering with the safe and free passage of a pedestrian or motor vehicle. [Section 2.1(i)]
  • Touching or causing physical contact with another person, or his/her property without consent. [Section 2.1(i)]
  • Stalking or intimidating members of the public or aggressive begging [Section 2.1(b)]
  • Refusing to stop begging when asked to do so. [Section 2.1(b)]
  • Reserve of block a public parking space. [Section 2.2)
  • Using abusive or threatening language. [Section 2.3(a)]
  • Fighting or acting in a riotous manner or threatening manner (Section 2.3(b)]
  • Urinating or defecating in a public place. [Section 2.3(c)]
  • Bathing or washing in a public place. [Section 2.3(d)]
  • Performing a sexual act in a public place [Section 2.3(f)]
  • Appearing in the nude exposing genitalia in a public place. [Section 2.3(g)]
  • Consuming liquor or narcotic drugs in a public place. [Section 2.3(h)]
  • Being drunk or under the influence or drugs in a public place. [Section 2.3(i)]
  • Soliciting or importuning any person for the purpose of prostitution or immorality. [Section 2.3(j)]
  • Starting or keeping a fire in a public place. [Section 2.3(i)]
  • Sleeping overnight or camping overnight or erecting any shelter in a public place. [Section 3.3(m)]  A shelter is defined as any structure that provides privacy or cover, that has one or more sides enclosed. [Section 1]
  • Causing noise disturbances, shouting, screaming or any other loud persistent noises in a public place. [Section 3(a)]
  • Hanging dry or spread washing, bedding or other items in a public place or on a fence in a public place. [Section 14]
  • Displaying or offering for sale any goods except as may be prescribed by the City through a licence / hawking. {Section 16.2]

* A public place means - (a) a public road; (b) any parking area, square, park, recreational ground, sports ground, sanitary lane, open space etc. [Section 1]. This includes shoulders, pavements and verges or roads.

REPORTING LAW BREAKERS

If you witness or suspect criminal activity or bylaws being broken by vagrants, please report them to the city's Law Enforcement unit on 0800 87 2201.

Vagrancy with no criminal intent should be reported to the People’s Displacement Unit (DPU) so that they can help. The number is 021 900 1755.

 

The issue of vagrancy and trying to manage it is a difficult and complex one.

There are many reasons why people end up as vagrants; but the consequences are the same – a way of life that revolves around no fixed place of abode, a life of destitution (and in many cases crime) and a life of living on the possible goodwill of others.

In Gardens there is divided opinion on how we as Neighbourhood Watch should deal with the vagrancy issue. One group of residents believe they are helping the vagrants by regularly providing them with assistance, in whatever form, be it with odd meals, spare clothing, money, a shelter for the night and so on. The other, larger group want nothing to do with vagrants, and feel that they are a health and crime hazard and should be removed by the authorities.

Gardens Watch has met with various organizations (Police, the CID and various organizations that provide assistance to vagrants), to assess what can be done.  Perhaps the most pertinent advice is that provided by the Social Development Department of the CCID (Cape Town City Improvement District) in its “Give Responsibly” Campaign.

What happens when I give money directly to people on the street?

Even though your intentions are good, in most cases, handouts result in people staying on the streets.
In many cases the money is not used to buy food essential necessities, but drugs and alcohol.

Don’t promote begging; rather GIVE RESPONSIBLY.

NGOs can help break this cycle, but need assistance.


 

GIVE RESPONSIBLY

If you would like to help the homeless and those in need these specific organisations offer alternatives to giving money to people on the streets. They offer free showers and toiletries, meal coupons and tokens, Pick ’n Pay food vouchers, shelter vouchers etc. One can also sponsor ‘employment’ for a homeless person.

It is sad but becoming very apparent that some (not all) homeless people are happy with the cash handouts they are receiving and are not interested in taking up the organisations’ offers to assist them with employment, shelter and social care. Perhaps it would be more helpful by donating to the organisations themselves or purchasing the coupons and vouchers etc from them to gift to people in need, rather than give cash.

SERVICE DINING ROOMS 021 465 2390 The Service Dining Rooms on Facebook.
Offers meals to the homeless and needy for R1. Meal coupon booklets (R10 for 10) or meal tokens (R1 each) can be purchased from SDR and gifted to homeless people rather than cash.

THE CARPENTER’S SHOP 021 461 5508 www.thecarpentersshop.org.za
Involved in skills development and training for those on the street. Social care and limited medical care.
Free shower and laundry facilities available in the mornings and they provide toiletries for the homeless to take away. With each shower, a token is given which can then be redeemed at the Service Dining rooms for a meal.

THE BROCCOLI PROJECT 021 403 1900 www.broccoliproject.org
Purchase R20 or R50 ‘Donorfeed’ vouchers to gift to homeless people. Can be redeemed for food
(no alcohol or cigarettes) at select Pick ‘n Pay stores. Email carol@broccoliproject.org  for vouchers.

THE HAVEN 021 425 4700 www.haven.org.za
Offers homeless adults a clean bed, meal & shower at 15 shelters in and around city. Access to social care.
First 10 nights are free and thereafter R12/night. “Buy a bed” vouchers can be purchased at The Haven shelters and gifted to homeless people.

STRAATWERK 021 930 8055 www.straatwerk.org.za
Focuses on the rehabilitation of street people by offering structured employment opportunities.
Sponsor a homeless person’s first day by giving them a completed sponsor form to take to Straatwerk. Upon receipt of the form, Straatwerk then contacts you to transfer R60 which will be paid to the homeless person upon completion of day’s tasks. Email admin@straatwerk.org.za

U-TURN 021 674 6119 www.homeless.org.za
Based in Kenilworth - works to uplift street people by offering meal and clothing vouchers, shelter, training and rehabilitation. Purchase meal/clothing vouchers on their website and at U-Turn outlets to gift to homeless people. Vouchers are redeemed for food and clothing at the Head Office in Kenilworth.

This leaflet (above) was handed out in October 2017 by the City's Homeless Reintegration Unit and Law Enforcement
officers at public meetings where the rising levels of vagrancy in the CBD was discussed.

 


FURTHER READING

Don't give 'money directly to street people',  City of Cape Town begs residents (READ ARTICLE)

Why you should not give money to beggars in South Africa (READ ARTICLE)

Beggars: To give or not to give? (READ ARTICLE)

Car guards a parking headache for motorists (READ ARTICLE)

Think twice before tipping illegal car guards (READ ARTICLE)


 

 
 

 

 
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