This meeting was part of an ongoing series of community meetings to provide an update on developments related to the Obs Journey, and gain inputs from attendees on their concerns and suggestions for improving our neighbourhood.
FULL MEETING NOTES
Meeting leader: Carolyn Neville
Attendees: 26 people representing both housed and non-housed community members.
Location: The Observatory Community Centre
Meeting Part 1: Sharing Updates & Information
New ‘travelers’ on the Obs Journey were reminded of the purpose of the Obs Journey, this helped in framing the ensuing conversations.
The Obs Journey is Obs residents working together to address local social issues.
We are a group of formally and informally housed residents concerned about crime, safety, litter, anti-social behaviour and lack of services in our community. Our purpose is to improve trust and communication amongst all Obs residents and have a series of conversations, led by an independent organisation or person, where we talk about fair and sustainable solutions to our neighborhood’s social issues. Our goal is to agree on short- and long-term solutions that we can all work on together in a spirit of community and trust.
Updates were then given on the following topics:
- Obs Journey bid for independent facilitator – the proposal submitted by Derek Ronnie and Ghalib Galant to the OBSID board for funding was not successful. The OBSID Board felt that the outcomes were too vague to justify the costs, and that such a project required on going support which OBSID would be unable to provide.
- Obz Rainbow House – the six residents from Rainbow House that are part of the OBSID work programme have been rehoused in Salt River. They require the following assistance:
- Kitchen table and chairs (6-8)
- Bedside tables / small tables
- Small cupboards or lockers
- 4 plate hotplate or stove
- Colander / strainer
- Large pots
- Single size bedding – sheets, duvets, duvet covers
- Pillow cases
If you are able to donate or finance any of these items, please call OBSID directly at 021-448-7090.
The future of the remaining 14 Rainbow House residents is not clear. Development Action Group (DAG) is involved in mediating between the landlord and the residents.
- Singabalapha informal settlement – ongoing legal action between the Singabalapha settlement residents and the City of Cape Town.
- Circus – ongoing legal action.
- Obs Pasta Kitchen – a poster has been developed for circulation amongst informally housed residents.
- OBSID – Amanda gave a brief update on the work OBSID has been doing with the street-based community in Obs. For more about OBSID’s work see their website. OBSID are currently doing an audit of how many people sleep rough (i.e. not in a dwelling) on the streets of Observatory in order to offer them innovative sleeping covers designed in Holland and produced locally.
- Obs CAN & other free meals –Obs CAN (Community Action Network) are providing breakfast and a packed lunch every Saturday and Sunday morning on the VG. This led to a conversation about other free meal services available for Observatory’s street-based residents – see below:
Monday – Friday – Breakfast and lunch at Youth Solutions Africa, Shelley Street
Wednesday – Dinner by Obs Pasta Kichen, served on the Village Green
Thursday – Dinner by Beth Uriel, Village Green
Sat – Sun – Breakfast and lunch packs
A list of NPOs working with non-housed residents is also available here.
- A Stranger Kind (ASK) – ASK is an initiative aimed at encouraging unlikely dialogues between unlikely people. ASK trains volunteers to speak with strangers about a topic that is important to them, then hosts events where people from the general public can have one-on-one conversations with volunteers and ask questions they might not have the opportunity (or courage) to ask. The Obs Journey Advisory Group feels that working with ASK could be a good way of improving trust and communication in Obs, one of the aims of the Obs Journey.
- U-Turn – Janine had a meeting with U-Turn, who has worked with street-based individuals in Cape Town for over 25 years. U-Turn has a four-phase programme designed to help homeless walk the path of recovery and get off the streets. A summary of their phases is in the table below.
U-Turn currently has four Service Centres in Cape Town, and they now have capacity to potentially open up a Service Centre in Observatory if a suitable location can be found.
Meeting Part 2: Capturing Concerns & Suggested Solutions
Those at the meeting recorded their personal concerns and suggested solutions in an individual exercise.
- Bullying around the homeless community
- Gangsterism within the homeless community, and effect this has on the community
- GBV within the homeless community
- Discrimination against LGBTQI members within the community
- Lack of hygiene facilities
- Lack of self-discipline
- Safety and cleanliness
- I am not sure those living on the street are willing to get off the street, they don’t want to live in a controlled environment where there are rules and regulations.
- I am concerned about my safety and that of family – whether it is being mugged or my children falling over and being stabbed by glass and used needles.
- The perception that Obs is an unsafe and not nice place to live/work/play which takes money out of the area, and makes it even harder for small businesses to survive.
- That homeless people get trapped in homelessness, rather than pursuing a better more constructive way of living.
- That I become hard of heart and resentful, and forget that all people have equal value regardless of their social status.
- As a newcomer to the community, it feels like all the organisations are not talking to each other and this will never create optimum effectiveness in resolving issues or addressing them.
- I don’t feel safe walking around Obs without being accompanied by a man.
- I am nervous working from a café in Obs after the armed robberies.
- There is sometimes anger directed towards us at the CAN when we are serving and start placing limits on people collecting food for people who aren’t there when there is a long line of hungry people waiting for food.
- An increase in the number of children and young people sleeping on the streets.
- Drug use and gang activity
- My concern is nothing will change if we don’t have a proper goal.
- My concern is affordable housing with the proper support for people really wanting to get off the street.
- Unga – stop the dealers in Obs!
- My concern is safety on Bishop Street especially at night as I walk up there alone.
- My main concern is that a small group of approx. 60 people has occupied a key public space in Obs. This has alienated the space from the majority of Obs residents and create a sense of discomfort among most Obs residents – most of whom now avoid the space.
- My concern is that some businesses and residents judge or label me a criminal or drug addict or an individual who commits anti-social behaviour just because I am homeless.
- I cannot prosper or move forward in my life or attempt to create a career if I keep on getting my personal belongings and valuables stolen from where I sleep – my own safety and that of my belongings is my main concern.
- My concern is the lack of understanding that Obs residents have about the system in SA, and how homeless people spiral downwards so quickly.
- My concern is that so many people in Obs are enabling the street based community to live on the streets and thereby enabling destructive behaviours.
- My concern is that there are criminals amongst the street based community members – endangering everyone in the community.
- My concern is that not everyone wants to be housed – and what happens to those who like to live on the streets and eke out a living.
- My concern is that it is simply not humane to live in public spaces like people are currently doing – especially in winter.
- My concern is that public spaces are not for people to live in but for all people to enjoy.
- My concern is for those street based community members who have mental health issues and who are not being attended to at all – there being a total failure on the part of the state to provide facilities for such people.
- My concern is that the CoCT are all talk and little action – and sometimes the action that they are proposing is contrary to what people working in this sector are saying should happen.
- My concern is that the housed residents should know their non-housed residents better – relationships should be formed with may make the difference in people’s lives and give them a sense of dignity and purpose.
- Homeless community should find and appoint leaders to represent them, and these people should lead by example and be anti-crime.
- Rehabilitation should be encouraged more for those who are using substances.
- Identify those who are willing to get off the street, and those who are not willing should be left in the hands of law enforcement.
- We need to work on a wholesome employment programme for willing former homeless/stret based people in Obs – not relying on the government.
- Getting businesses involved in creating a community which can be an example of how to create peace and prosperity for all.
- A huge marketing campaign – to show what’s already happening regarding social issues in Obs.
- Our streets will never be safe until the law is put in place to ensure that the public spaces are clean and safe.
- There are initiatives in Obs to get the homeless off the street but some of the homeless are hooligans and are pushing drugs, and they will never be prepared to move into an area where there are rules and regulations.
- A service centre in Obs dedicated to helping homeless people live healthier lives, ideally linked to somewhere to stay.
- Token system to educate and encourage people to give responsibly.
- A celebration of businesses to appreciate their value and embolden potential entrepreneurs to start businesses.
- More meetings between organisations working this area, and more community meetings to co-ordinate a way forward.
- Land and building for homeless projects
- General awareness programme on the homeless issues to create certain awareness around this group of people.
- Skills development so as to generate income – whereby clients who are good with their hands and were trained could start producing products for sale and generate income.
- More volunteers for Sat and Sun feeding to increase the longevity of the CAN.
- I love the idea of hosting ASK events in Obs.
- Sharing information about available resources with the settlement on Main Rd.
- A garden/landscaping project would be great in Obs.
- Better communication amongst volunteer organisations about services available to avoid duplication.
- The Village Green area must be reclaimed for the general public by ensuring that this space is not somewhere where people can live. The people living there now need to be moved to a space where they can be supported and it is the responsibility of CoCT to ensure this happens and not the residents of Observatory. The same goes for Singabalapa and the circus. These people are not living in these spaces legally, and ultimately they will have to move.
- I want to believe that nobody falls from heaven – we were all born into a home. People are faced with all kinds of emotions and heart-breaking stories resulting in homelessness. I think the best way is to sensitise the people with more awareness. There is a need to let them realise how valuable they are and coming back to their realisation and consciousness of their real self. Nevertheless, realisation of being oneself has to come with personal conviction that one day, I must discover myself and be a person.
- ASK would be an awesome initiative in Obs.
- Having a UTurn service centre in Obs would be a great initiative.
- Having a vegetable garden run by street based community members would be a positive (I know there is one at the circus, but many residents will not support that because it is an illegal occupation)
- We need to work hard with those who want to get off the street – creating success stories and therefore role models for others.
- We need jobs for our people.
- I think OBSID should reclaim the Village Green and go ahead with some of the ideas that were submitted by the community for making this space a community space – regardless of the structures there. Chicken and egg situation but I think that if the space was made useable (benches/table tennis tables/chess set boards/concrete stage for events/trees/an area where street based community members could sell the products of their labour/a monthly community market with fruit and veg being sold ….. and events were planned there despite the structures it would be a positive….someone has to start the ball of reclaiming the space for all … if we wait, we run the risk of more structures going up and nothing happening in the current wasteland.
- SAPS/CPF and Obswatch need to get involved in a cordon/search exercise. It will require precision planning but the whole area from Station Road/LMR to the railway station must be cordoned off, each structure searched and a census taken of those living in this area.
- SAPS need to deal more decisively with the drug dealers in Obs – the sniffer dogs should spend more time in Obs.
- We need a proper education campaign especially targeted at students (notably foreign students) about responsible giving in Obs – something that would go out to all student housing/digs/student accommodation.
- Those who are working with street based communities need to start discussing more responsible living with them – aka Obs Pasta Kitchen posters which is a great initiative.
- Communication with CoCT needs to be intensified – re suitable pieces of land for people to move to/wise spending of monies budgeted for street based communities etc….
- Cllr Mohamed needs to be part of the Obs Journey.
- Events on the Village Green should be planned to bring the community together.
- Those living on the streets have stories to tell – a way of depicting/telling their stories should be imagined and should take the form of an exhibition of sorts… local characters such as Troubles, Celine, Lorna …. long time residents of Obs.
- Finding a space for controlled and managing living in the ‘pods’ should be found, giving people more dignity but also managing public spaces better
- Better communication and strategizing amongst those working in this space needs to happen – to avoid duplication of effort and make the support offering more efficient and streamlined.
- Education, education and education of housed and non-housed residents about how to be good neighbours.
- Carolyn Neville, Kimon Bisogno, Janine Titley (Obs Journey) and Amanda Kirk (OBSID) will be meeting with U-Turn on 19 August to explore the possibility of a partnership to start a Service Centre in Observatory.
- We need you! Any suggestions for suitable locations to establish a Service Centre (and ideally also a Safe Space) would be helpful.
- Next community meeting – date to be communicated.