Down the drain

A blocked drain on the corner of Smartt Road and Riebeeck Street in Goodwood.

Riebeeck Street residents in Goodwood fear an influx of homeless people in the area is among several factors causing a “rapid deterioration” of the neighbourhood.

Ward 4 committee member Chris Theron has lived in Riebeeck Street since 1961 and says vagrancy is worsening by the day.

“There is an open piece of land in the street a few metres away from my house where the homeless dump their rubbish. They just erect their plastic-and-cardboard shelters, create a mess and, when the wind picks up, the dirt is strewn all over the street,” he said.

The homeless were also using the retention dam on the corner of Frans Conradie Drive and Vasco Boulevard as a “toilet”.

“I pointed this out to Ward 27 councillor Cecile Janse van Rensburg quite a few times,” he said.

“They also wash in the open exposing themselves to residents and schoolchildren, which is a problem.”

Mr Theron said he didn’t mind handing out blankets to the homeless during winter and helping them, but the City needed a “long-term, holistic solution” to vagrancy.

“They also loiter in front of Shoprite on the corners of Church and Voortrekker roads, where the homeless beg for money to buy booze, which results in fights breaking out,” he said.

“The homeless also hang their washing on fences opposite JG Meiring High School, which creates an eyesore in the community. I have noticed an increase in crime in the area as a result, and when one tries to talk to the homeless, they tend to be very aggressive.”

Mr Theron also complained about clogging stormwater drains and deteriorating roads.

“I called Ms Janse van Rensburg out on Wednesday June 27, and she took pictures of the stormwater drains and ageing road reserve. A City of Cape Town truck came along a few days later, but they just looked at the drains and rode off,” said Mr Theron.

“The City does not clean the drains, and the sand emanating from the drains gathers in front of my house. When we experienced heavy rains last week, I had to remove two and a half wheelbarrows of sand from the front of my house.”

Mr Theron said the City had yet to act on various problems he had listed in his ward-committee report.

“Fading road markings and absent traffic signs are also a problem in this area,” he said.

“The City needs to conduct regular maintenance in the area. Accidents could occur and this poses a real danger for motorists.”

Mr Theron’s neighbour Brian Benzine has lived in the area for 36 years. He says there is a “rapid decline” in Goodwood, and it is hurting homeowners’ property values.

“Dumping and the squatting of the homeless on recreational areas is a big problem in the area,” he said.

“I don’t believe that City law enforcement is doing its job properly. Flooding of the roads when it rains continues to be a problem, and the poor state of the roads is also another issue that I have. Sometimes the homeless loiter in parks for two weeks without any intervention by the City.”

JP Smith, mayoral committee member for safety and security; and social services, said the City’s Street People Reintegration Unit operated in Goodwood. “Unfortunately, we have no control over the movement and behaviour of homeless and less fortunate individuals who visit the area. These individuals have constitutionally enshrined rights to freedom of movement,” he said.

The City’s social development and early childhood development department would continue working with homeless people in the area, trying to relocate them; and law enforcement would keep up its patrols, Mr Smith said.

“We encourage the complainant to take part in efforts by the community to uplift and maintain the neighbourhood in general and to make contact with the neighbourhood watch that exists in the neighbourhood, particularly since City resources are currently under severe strain,” he said.

Ms Janse van Rensburg was emailed questions but referred Northern News to the City’s media office for comment.

Goodwood Ratepayers’ chairman Faizel Petersen said homelessness was a problem throughout Goodwood.

“The homelessness issue has come up in many conversations that I have had with residents. There seems to be no plan of action when it comes to dealing with the homeless, and I have noticed that the City’s Street People Reintegration Unit only host periodic operations,” he said.

Mr Petersen said homeless people came into the area in large numbers on Sunday, the day before refuse collection.

“They migrate into the area before ‘bin day’ and rummage through residents’ bins to find items of value which they could either sell or recycle.”

He said law enforcement had told him it didn’t have the manpower to monitor the homeless on bin-collection days.

“Some of the complaints I have received are of the homeless staying in public parks, openly starting fires to keep warm, engaging openly in sexual activities and contravening quite a few of the City’s by-laws.

“I have had a meeting with officials from the provincial Department of Social Development to strategise a solution. We are concerned about the ‘youth at risk’ living with either their homeless parents and caregivers, as they are exposed to anti-social behaviour on a daily basis. There are also many homeless people who prefer to stay on the streets and refuse help from the City and Province,” he said.