At Home on the Streets – People’s Post (Astrid Februarie)

There is a growing number of homeless people in Constantia who seek help in getting off the street. Last week the special response team in Constantia took People’s Post to all the homeless people hotspots in the community. People’s Post found that many of the street people live in the area due to the safety and security the area provides.

The homeless live in groups of two to six people – behind rocks, in bushes and along the M3. They have constructed homes and beds with plastic bags, old mattresses and blankets they found in bins and items they get from passersby. Asked how they survive on the streets they all shared the same story – they get water and food from residents and scratch in bins for food. A few have unofficially appointed themselves as car guards at the nearby shopping centre to make a bit of cash.

Cornelius Davids (59), a homeless man who says he is from Constantia, has been living in a bush for over 20 years. “I was in prison for a very long time and when I was released I could not find a job or a place to live and the streets became my home,” he says. However, Davids says that he does want help in moving off the streets as life out in the open is “tough and rough”.

“I cannot live like this forever – none of us on the streets can. I want to be able to wake up in a warm bed, have food of my own and work for a living. But with a criminal record and my age I can only dream of that kind of life,” he says. Asked why he chose Constantia as a place to live, he says “this is the only place I know. I do not want to live in an area where there are gangs and drugs. I want peace and I want to live in an environment were I feel safe, even while living on the street”.

Another homeless man from Ocean View, who decided to live along the M3, says his time on the streets is “temporary”, although he refuses to go back home. “I do not want to go back to Ocean View. There are too many bad things happening in the community and therefore I chose to rather live on the streets and far way from my home,” he says. William, who only provided his first name as he did not want to be identified, has built himself a makeshift home on top of a hill just below the M3. “Here is where I feel safe, but I know I must get off the streets. I am young and determined to make something of my life and the first step was for me to leave Ocean View. I too have dreams,” he says.

During the patrol and stops along the way the special response team officer said that “many of the homeless people are harmless and trying to survive, but there are the criminal elements who hide among them. This is why we monitor their movement and they are also a great source of information when something happens in the area,” he says. However, he adds that homeless people are attracted to the area because people give them things such as food, water, blankets, plastic and even clothing. “These are the type of items which attract homeless people to the area and we ask that people give responsibly. We do hope that the homeless people accept the help that is provided to them because living on the streets is no easy life,” he adds.