The George Municipality yesterday hosted a meeting to discuss the impact that an increasing number of vagrants and homeless people are having on business and residents in and around the CBD.
Social Development Officer Estelle Fredericks said while the homeless issue was strictly speaking not a municipal mandate (it is that of the National Department Social Welfare), the municipality recognised the wider impact the matter had and would continue with its varied approach to address what it can. “The municipality is already doing whatever is possible within the resources available to us and we now ask our businesses and communities to help us come up with new and sustainable solutions.”
The George Municipality takes regular surveys to determine how many people are living on the street and registers those who are willing on its database. At last count, there were 94 such people in George. The municipality’s Social Development unit assists with reuniting people with their families, obtaining ID documents, helps with compiling CVs and applying for jobs. The department also heads up the People Living on the Streets Forum, which coordinates with a wide range of roleplayers including SAPS and the National Departments of Social Welfare, Justice, Internal Affairs and Labour.
Community and Social Development Services Portfolio Councillor Sean Snyman said it was important to distinguish between homeless people, who had truly lost everything, and vagrants who chose to live on the streets. “It may sound harsh, but there are families out there who should be caring for their own and we make every effort to reunite such vagrants with their people. We also recognise that a large part of the problem relates to drugs – we can’t have job creation projects when the people are not employable. In this regard, the municipality is currently putting a business plan together with the goal of providing a space where a drug rehabilitation centre and related support structures can be established.”
About 30 people attended the meeting which included local business, church and social organisations and people living on the streets.
It was agreed that there was an urgent need for a night shelter, substance abuse rehabilitation centre and a social rehabilitation centre.
The Cremhog homeless facility, which had been on the cards for some time but where gaps in the business plan was hindering implementation, also came under discussion. Attendees had indicated they were willing to work with Cremhog to help address the gaps in their business plan to coincide with the norms and standards required for similar centres. Organisations and individuals said they would be willing to render services at the centre.
The decision was made to invite all interested parties to the next People Living on the Streets Forum meeting to discuss the Cremhog proposal. Attendees also affirmed their willingness to become part of the forum.