Evicting the homeless from near work is not a solution

Carlos Mesquita writes that there is so much going on inside of me as I write this column, that it almost didn’t get sent to my editors. Picture Courtney Africa/African News Agency(ANA)

Carlos Mesquita writes that there is so much going on inside of me as I write this column, that it almost didn’t get sent to my editors. Picture Courtney Africa/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Feb 3, 2024


There is so much going on inside of me as I write this column, that it almost didn’t get sent to my editors.

It’s a combination of despair, sadness, anger, gratitude and relief.

I have spent most of the past three weeks trying to find a way of helping those who made the three Anchor Bay Tennis Academy their home for more than three and a half years.

Tomorrow they are expected to be off the grounds of the tennis club.

The City finally got it right to have evictions notices issued.

And this only happened because those who promised to stand by the individuals were not there to help them over this final hurdle.

Most of the guys at the encampment were with me in Strandfontein and also at the Community Chest building. Unfortunately, not everyone housed at Community Chest’s offices was able to move on to the backpackers we later renamed Our House, and eventually a group of them landed up at what is now known as the Greenpoint tent city.

The owner of the tennis club has tried to avoid them being forced off the property without suitable accommodation first having been found. To this end, many individuals and organisations got involved.

And when law enforcement tried to evict the group two years ago, it was the City that was ordered to return everything it had confiscated during the attempted forced eviction, and the people gradually returned.

The court ordered the City to speak to the individuals and to try to find a sustainable solution.

The lawyers acting for the group demanded transitional accommodation where families and friends could live in rooms, so they could have a semblance of privacy and agency.

The City came up with the suggestion of a new “transitional shelter” which would be built in Greenpoint.

People reacted positively and even I was cautiously optimistic. I wrote to the mayor and went to see the City’s Department of Social Development.

To avoid further disappoints, I wanted to ensure the City understood how people living on the streets saw “transitional” accommodation.

Sadly, two years later the promised shelter has not materialised and neither has the 30-bed shelter promised to people living on the streets in Durbanville, who were also subsequently “evicted”.

The court granted the eviction based on the City’s promise to accommodate the individuals at the transitional shelter.

The other option that came to the fore, as it became obvious the shelter would not be an option for the individuals, was an offer of moving them to Delft.

And the offer is on the table. But most of the people work in the area. Some recycle for regular clients, some have got gardening jobs, some do char work and others park cars.

But to all intents and purposes, they have no connection to Delft and they also have no idea what awaits them in Delft.

Yet the City claims to have done more than its fair share!

No, it hasn’t.

If it had, it would have offered services to the community over the past three and a half years rather than constantly try to evict them.

Come tomorrow, should there be people left in the encampment, the City and the tennis academy will instruct the sheriff to evict.

But evict to where? Residents of the area should go onto the social media pages for Durbanville and find out what the situation is like for those they saw being evicted a year ago, because that is exactly what the residents of Sea Point and Green Point can expect.

How many times must I scream from the rooftops: “Evictions to nowhere and moving people along are not sustainable solutions. The longer you keep doing this, the worse the situation will become!”

The City and provincial government keep funding a model that has been proved not to work, a model that perpetuates homelessness, yet there are other options. But they refuse to fund the alternatives.

I am just rejoicing that the national government has, at long last, decided to start working on a national policy and seems adamant to get input from far and wide, even those with lived experience of being homeless.

With any luck, this will bring an end to the temporary nature of all interventions on homelessness and an end to criminalising those living on the streets.

* Carlos Mesquita.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Cape Argus

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