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HSPC to move

Lifestyle Section - Community



The Helderberg Street People’s Centre (HSPC), which feeds 250 to 300 homeless people each day, is to be relocated to the Somerset West Night Shelter premises in Church Street, when the current month-to-month lease on the premises where it is located in Victoria Street opposite the Somerset West Library, expires in January next year.This emerged during an interview with Sub-Council 8 chair Stuart Pringle, who is also the Ward 84 councillor, on the plight of street people in the Helderberg Basin, and the steps the City of Cape Town is taking to address the problem.

The search for new premises for the HSPC – established some 15 years ago by 82-year-old Somerset West resident Ian Grier – began in 2010, when the lease expired. Since then, the lease has been extended on a month-to-month basis while alternative premises were sought.

“We applied for an extension to our lease at the time, and were told that it was under consideration. We never heard another word, but continued to operate for about 18 months,” said Mr Grier. “We were given notice to vacate the premises some months back by end January, and we immediately wrote to the City, asking for an extension until end February, but we’ve not heard back from the City.”

Mr Pringle explained the reason for finally terminating the HSPC lease: “The property has been earmarked for the development of a public transport interchange, and we expect spades in the ground (construction to start) in 2015 or 2016.

The lease was actually terminated two years ago, but at my request, the HSPC has continued to operate on a month-to-moth basis.”

Mr Grier, who is aware of the plans for the property which currently houses the HPSC, said: “It is unfortunate that we are not allowed to continue to operate from our current premises until such times as the construction of the public transport interchange commences.”

A 200 square metre piece of land has been set aside at the Somerset West night Shelter (SWNS), according to Mr Pringle, and this was confirmed on Friday by SWNS chairperson, Jo Swart.

“We had planned to create a food garden in this pace, but we share the same goals (as the HSPC), and we want to help them in their time of crisis,” she said.

“It’s not an ideal option, but it is an option that we can put forward. We plan to establish a ‘one stop’ Day Centre, and we’d like to partner with the HSPC, by including their operation as part of the Day Centre, which will be a service to all those in need, specifically the homeless.

“We’d like to assist the HSPC in transitioning to come in line with the City’s policy for dealing with street people,” she added.

Mr Pringle also said the City will provide a container for the HSPC. “As a result of the HSPC not having secured an alternative property, the City considers this to be an emergency situation, and plans to install a container from which people who desperately need assistance can be fed, on the Night Shelter premises (by the HSPC).

“Because there are other social services on the premises, which street people need to access, it will help to address the problem of street people in the Helderberg holistically and more comprehensively than has occurred in the past,” he said.

Reacting to the offer of land at the SWNS, and container-type premises from the City, Mr Grier said: “It is a wonderful change of heart by the Night Shelter, and it is an answer to many prayers,” he said, adding that for three years, no land had been available there. We also need to know what is the nature and length of the lease, and what will happen to any improvements which HSPC makes on the land.

“A conventional container will not be suitable from a health and safety perspective for the preparation of food, so it will need to be brought into a condition that makes it so.”

The HSPC has in-spanned seven churches in the Helderberg to provide assistance in the form of volunteer workers to man the soup kitchen, which provides for many of the homeless people on the streets of the Helderberg Basin, the only one or two meals they are likely to have on any given day.

The seven churches – St Paul’s Catholic Church, three Dutch Reformed churches, the Anglican Church, the Methodist Church and the Presbytarian Church – each supply a team of volunteers who help to serve meals at the HPSC.

“These women have been coming for many years to make their contribution which they feel committed to do,” said Mr Greer. “It gives them enormous satisfaction to demonstrate their Christianity in this very practical way.

“If we were to have been closed down, we’d have lost that, and denied about 200 people the opportunity to serve,” he said.


Written by Norman McFarlane You are reading HSPC to move articles

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