Muizenberg Improvement District recognizes that the social, environmental and hygiene challenges posed by the homeless living on Atlantic Road are real, problematic and untenable. MID is continuing to apply increased pressure at the only point where a change can be effected in the long-term: The City of Cape Town.
In the long run the City, together with the Western Cape Government, needs to recognize Muizenberg as a hotspot and prioritize resource allocation to Atlantic Road so that additional Law Enforcement resources can be on hand to enforce bylaws and additional Social Services resources are made available to find alternative accommodation for those in Atlantic Road, and particularly the disabled.
A divided Muizenberg . . .
The Atlantic Road situation is an issue that divides Muizenberg residents: on the one hand, there are those that feel the authorities and MID are too soft and need to take more drastic measures; and on the other hand, there are those that are outraged that more is not being done to help and uplift the homeless and make life easier for them. This division in our community plays out where we see some people setting up soup-kitchens or dropping off goods to supposedly “help”, while others are writing strongly-worded letters calling for harder action to be taken.
Given the strong feelings on both ends of the spectrum, it was shocking to read a quote from JP Smith, Mayco Member for Safety, Security and Social Services in an article published in People’s Post Tuesday 14 February entitled “Homelessness no day at the beach” where he states that since December the City’s Social Development Department received only FIVE complaints in Muizenberg! The reason for this is because most people complain to MID – who does not have the mandate to enforce bylaws or the authority to make available much-sought-after places in shelters! In other words, much energy is being spent complaining in the wrong direction.
What is MID doing?
Nonetheless MID is an important voice and facilitator in trying to co-ordinate and focus City resources and spends many hours each week driving both short- and long-term solutions:
- We apply pressure daily on the multiple City Departments that have a role to play in resolving this. The City Departments are, however, in a transition phase which is not helping as continuity and accountability are not always obvious.
- We have obtained commitment from Law Enforcement to patrol Atlantic Road every day; resources depending.
- We have obtained commitment from Department of Solid Waste to wash the pavement of Atlantic Road off, using a water tanker which collected water from Orange Street in the CBD (taking place regularly). Their cleaning team also services this area every morning.
- We have referred the hygiene challenges to Environmental Health and Safety – action is in progress and has already been escalated.
- We conducted a Joint Field Operation (at night) with the City and Provincial Social Development Department to put a name to the faces of those living on the streets, and to also identify and facilitate intervention for children living on the streets (taking them home/designated places of safety). This is on-going.
- We obtained commitment from Law Enforcement to collect all the structures on Atlantic Road, in the park and on the Vlei – MID organized a truck to support this exercise and it, too, will be repeated.
However, change in any community is only effected when the whole community comes together to register protest and drive the change with the right authorities.
Directing community activism
Whether you are concerned about the plight of the homeless and wish you could do more to help, or you are concerned about the effect of their presence on your business, safety or property values. We would like to suggest that you become part of the intervention, and join the fight constructively (and more importantly daily) in one of the following ways that speaks to your view on this matter: ultimately viable solutions lie with adequate social development solutions in combination with law enforcement.