Kouga Municipality and its partners are working towards a permanent solution to assist the homeless in the region.
Executive Mayor, Horatio Hendricks, said the aim was to establish a permanent shelter for those who are destitute, which would also offer training and entrepreneurial opportunities to help those being housed at the facility to get back on their feet.
“Supporting the homeless is the mandate of the Department of Social Development and not the municipality,” he explained.
“The COVID-19 lockdown level 5 , however, saw the municipality taking the lead in assisting those who had nowhere to go, as the Department did not have the capacity to deal with the demand.”
He said the municipality had made the Pellsrus Caravan Park available to house the homeless during the Covid-19 lockdown and that municipal funds were being used to rent marquees and purchase extra food, as the funding from the Department of Social Development was not sufficient to cover the requirements.
“The challenge is that the municipality cannot, in terms of legislation, continue to fund a function that falls outside its mandate. At the same time, we do not want to turn our backs on those who need help,” he said.
He said a business plan for a long-term shelter had been prepared by the NGO Fish and Bread and that this had been submitted to the Department of Social Development for consideration.
“The municipality has further offered to make an alternative site available for a permanent shelter. Unfortunately, there has not been consensus among the role players as to which site would be appropriate,” he said.
“There is also concern as to whether Social Development would be able to fund such a facility in the long term.”
He said the ongoing use of the Pellsrus Caravan Park as a temporary homeless shelter had made it impossible for the municipality to rent it out for holiday accommodation.
“Many families from elsewhere in Kouga would typically spend their festive season at the caravan park.
We regret that this option was not available to them this December, but would like to give them the assurance that the municipality is doing all in its power to find a long-term solution and open the park to the public again,” he said.
He said negotiations with the Department of Social Development and affected NGOs were ongoing.
Should any other individuals, community organisations or businesses like to become involved in supporting the initiative, especially with a view to a long-term solution, they can contact Kouga Municipality’s Director: Planning, Development, Local Economic Development and Tourism, Fezeka Mabusela, at [email protected]
Photo: Joey Nel