The mother of all storms hit Cape Town this past week, shocking everyone after a very mild lead-up to winter. Temperatures plummeted and by Wednesday afternoon in addition to rain and wind, it was even hailing in Muizenberg.

At 17h25 on Wednesday MID received a report, via local neighbourhood watch group MCSI, that a woman was lying passed out in the rain next to the Atlantic Road Bridge.

MID Directors Heide Goodman, Kevin Rack and Marion Wagner were busy in Atlantic Road checking up on the wellbeing of the homeless when the alert came through and were able to respond. During their walkabout, they  found that three of the homeless in Atlantic Road had been given alcohol to keep warm. Marion Wagner said “This is an extreme example of how damaging irresponsible giving really can be – it could have had very serious consequences. No doubt the person who handed out alcohol thought they were doing a good deed, but it was in fact an incredibly dangerous thing to do. Here was this woman, having drunk all that alcohol just lying in the rain, unable to move, while the Realfeel temperature was showing 1°C, clothing soaking wet, and the risk of hypothermia was incredibly real. One of her companions was awake but we couldn’t get him to move – he just kept repeating that he wanted to sleep despite his clothes being soaking wet and lying in the freezing cold. We managed to move him out of the rain and used empty dustbins to provide a windbreak for him”

Being out there in the cold the group quickly realized that this was a crisis situation, not only for the three inebriated homeless individuals, but also for the others exposed to the elements at the height of the storm.

The shelters would not take anyone after 6pm so that option was out. A local Church was contacted and despite being very concerned about the homeless and willing to assist, there were not enough volunteers at such short notice to make this viable. Finally it was decided to try and move everyone overnight to a nearby open area that at least had a bit of an awning to provide shelter against the worst of the elements.

MID Public Safety was contacted and they came out to help everyone move over – all were very grateful and willing to move to a slightly warmer place for the night. One man refused assistance, wanting to stay put for the night outside the electricity department, so MID Director, Kevin Rack covered him with sheets of plastic and the patrollers were asked to check periodically that he was still okay.

A small group of MCSI and Safer Together members also stepped in at short notice to provide soup, sandwiches, blankets and some underfelt to sleep on to keep out the cold.

Marion says “This was treated as the emergency situation that it was: we got people to safety and warmed them up again. Under normal circumstances we don’t condone giving handouts of anything (and especially not alcohol!) to the homeless – simply because it sustains them in a life that is unsustainable.”

Responsible giving means channeling donations, food, time or money through organizations that exist to uplift in the long-term as well as help in the short-term. It is important to know that “help” can sometimes be detrimental if you do not know the details about someone’s situation. In this case giving alcohol to alcoholics nearly caused a crisis. More prosaically, giving the odd handout of money or food may keep someone on the streets who actually has the potential to rise above circumstances and function well in society.

Do consider supporting MID’s Social Development fund or Friends of Muizenberg Park’s Dignity Vouchers programme. And if you have a specific idea of how you would like to help you are welcome to run it by MID Social Worker Marion Thomas first – just to make sure that it really will help. She can be contacted on

Also contact the City of Cape Town Street People Unit on 0800 872 201 to request assistance on behalf of any homeless person that you may know of, or be in contact with.


About MID:

The Muizenberg Improvement District [MID] is a geographic area where property owners have contracted to pay a levy to facilitate a joint effort by the City of Cape Town and the local community to ensure more effective management of public areas and to promote business confidence.The MID supplements normal municipal services provided by the City, using its funds to deal with public safety, enhance the environment and address social issues like vagrancy and finding workable solutions for the homeless. The Muizenberg Improvement District is a legal entity established under the City’s Special Rating Areas by-law and also governed by the South African Companies Act 2008.