The Winter Challenge: Cape Town’s Homeless Shelters Prepare for the Cold

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homelessness cape town

As winter approaches Cape Town, homeless shelters are preparing for an expected increase in demand for warmth and shelter from the bitter cold. Haven, a leading charity, is creating approximately 100 additional sleeping spaces to meet the surge in demand. Homelessness is a persistent issue in Cape Town with estimates suggesting a homeless population of up to 20,000 in the area alone, but the combined efforts of charities, institutions, and the government offer hope for the vulnerable during the toughest season.

The Winter Challenge: Cape Town’s Homeless Shelters Prepare for the Cold

With winter approaching, Cape Town’s homeless shelters are anticipating increased demand for warmth and shelter from the bitter cold. Haven, a leading charity, is creating approximately 100 additional sleeping spaces to meet the surge in demand. Homelessness is a persistent issue in Cape Town, with estimates suggesting a homeless population of up to 20,000 in the area alone. However, the combined efforts of charities, institutions, and the government offer hope for the vulnerable during the toughest season.

The Crisp Approach of Winter

With winter’s chilly grasp slowly tightening around Cape Town, the city’s homeless shelters are preparing for an expected surge of individuals seeking warmth from the bitter cold. Haven, a leading charity providing homeless support, operates a network of 14 shelters and 1,300 beds throughout the city. They are currently running at 85% occupancy, a figure expected to skyrocket as the mercury dips further. “The moment the weather becomes harsh and wet, our shelters get filled to the brim,” expresses Shaddie Valayadum, Haven’s CEO.

To alleviate this impending pressure, Haven has plans to create roughly 100 additional sleeping spaces, including 70 completely new beds. They are achieving this by relocating some of their long-time beneficiaries to extended-stay facilities in Malmesbury, Ceres, and Mossel Bay. This move will crucially free up much needed space in the in-demand shelters. Additionally, Haven is amping up its operations at the Wynberg shelter where renovations are in progress to house an extra 40 inhabitants this winter.

The Persistent Issue of Homelessness in Cape Town

Homelessness in Cape Town is a long-standing issue, with its roots deep into the city’s social fabric. U-Turn, another organization working towards alleviating homelessness, reports in its 2020 study ‘The Cost of Homelessness in Cape Town’, that Cape Town and Johannesburg together house more than 14,000 homeless people. This already alarming figure was calculated pre-COVID-19, indicating that the current homeless population is likely much larger.

The recently conducted 2022 census paints a broader picture, estimating the homeless population of South Africa at a jaw-dropping 56,000, with roughly 12% residing in the Cape Town Metro area. Steve Underwood, spokesperson at U-Turn, however, disputes this figure, suggesting the actual number in Cape Town alone may be as high as 20,000.

U-Turn plays a significant role in combating homelessness. They offer essential skills and resources to the homeless community, and currently manage four shelters in Cape Town, located in Claremont, Mitchells Plain, Muizenberg and Parow. Despite having a total of 35 beds at their Claremont center, Underwood states, “It is always filled to capacity.” The facility even maintains a ‘waiting list’, a stark reflection of the ever-growing demand.

Institutional Involvement and Future Prospects

From a governing perspective, the City of Cape Town caters to approximately 3,500 homeless individuals through its shelters and safe spaces. The city manages four safe spaces, situated in Durbanville, Bellville, and two in Culemborg, offering a combined total of 800 beds. However, as Patricia Van der Ross, Mayco Member for Community Services and Health, points out, these spaces are already 90% occupied, highlighting the severity of the situation.

In a forward-thinking initiative, the Western Cape Government has declared a new site to be inaugurated in Greenpoint by July. Van der Ross gives an optimistic overview of the new center, which can “house 300 people and offer sleeping spaces, washroom facilities, a training room, social work services, and round-the-clock security.” This project reflects the ongoing joint efforts of various stakeholders to curb the escalating homelessness crisis in Cape Town.

The Winter Onslaught and Hope for the Vulnerable

As the winter season descends upon Cape Town, the situation appears grim for the city’s homeless population. The city’s shelters, already close to full capacity, are gearing up for an influx of people seeking refuge from the harsh weather. However, the combined efforts of charities, institutions, and the government offer a glimmer of hope that the toughest season may prove slightly more endurable for those who are most vulnerable.

1. What is Haven doing to prepare for the expected surge in demand for shelter during winter in Cape Town?

Haven, a leading charity providing homeless support, is creating approximately 100 additional sleeping spaces, including 70 completely new beds. This is being achieved by relocating some of their long-time beneficiaries to extended-stay facilities in Malmesbury, Ceres, and Mossel Bay, freeing up much-needed space in the in-demand shelters.

2. How big is the homeless population in Cape Town?

Estimates suggest a homeless population of up to 20,000 in the area alone, according to Steve Underwood, spokesperson at U-Turn. However, the recently conducted 2022 census paints a broader picture, estimating the homeless population of South Africa at 56,000, with roughly 12% residing in the Cape Town Metro area.

3. What role does U-Turn play in combating homelessness in Cape Town?

U-Turn offers essential skills and resources to the homeless community and currently manages four shelters in Cape Town, located in Claremont, Mitchells Plain, Muizenberg, and Parow.

4. How is the City of Cape Town addressing homelessness?

The City of Cape Town caters to approximately 3,500 homeless individuals through its shelters and safe spaces. The city manages four safe spaces, situated in Durbanville, Bellville, and two in Culemborg, offering a combined total of 800 beds.

5. What is the Western Cape Government doing to address homelessness in Cape Town?

The Western Cape Government has declared a new site to be inaugurated in Greenpoint by July. This site can house 300 people and offer sleeping spaces, washroom facilities, a training room, social work services, and round-the-clock security.

6. Is there hope for the homeless population in Cape Town during the winter season?

The combined efforts of charities, institutions, and the government offer a glimmer of hope that the toughest season may prove slightly more endurable for those who are most vulnerable.

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