A stunning new collaborative initiative by urban art NGO Baz-Art, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene NPO Viva con Agua is about to add some shine to a few homeless communities in Cape Town.
Areas in Claremont, Muizenberg and Mitchell’s Plain will soon be served by a mobile wash facility which is funded and supported by the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs through the German Consulate General in Cape Town.
The initiative is further supported by U-Turn, which has over 20 years of experience in assisting Cape Town’s homeless, as well as GoBanyo, which piloted the original remodelled mobile facility in Germany. Founded by a previously homeless individual, GoBanyo promotes unconditional acceptance. This is a founding principle for the Cape Town initiative as well.
The project will provide critical wash facilities to some of the city’s most vulnerable and overlooked people. The first phase of the project is to co-design the facility with people experiencing homelessness to get their insight into what the facility needs.
In March 2020, it was estimated that Cape Town has over 14 300 homeless individuals and just two water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities (WASH), both of which are based in the CBD. Shelters also provide WASH facilities but are reportedly stretched.
With water being a basic human right and critical to human dignity, the feasibility study found a mobile wash facility may be a sustainable way to broaden access to more people. The initiative aims to help restore people’s confidence, and make them feel seen and respected.
Alexandre Tilmans, founder of Baz-Art, says, “The facility provides basic services and forms part of a bigger network of NGOs with a shared mission of broad social development. Our aim is for the facility to be the first point of call to provide critical interventions to empower people to start the journey to reintegrate into communities.”
Baz-Art and partners heard many heart-breaking stories, from people being chased away from toilets by security guards to bathing in freezing rivers at night. One person said they hang a 20-litre container on a tree so that no-one steals it, so they can wash their clothes and body, while a woman spoke of the difficulty of menstruation, “When we get our periods, where must we throw our pads? I put the sanitary towel in the bin, wrapped in newspaper.”
The facility designers are looking to include the provision of toiletries, a hot shower, clean clothes and laundry facilities. It’s inclusive by design, with the mission to make its guests feel part of the project at every touchpoint.
Ajay Paul from Viva con Agua concludes, “It’s simply unimaginable the effort homeless people must go to in order to wash themselves and access basic sanitation services. It robs people of their dignity. It takes away their confidence to pursue work and a livelihood. Our project is a simple, innovative solution to one part of the problem. It’s not a silver bullet. It’s the start of a bigger journey to empower people to rebuild their lives. It’s a privilege to be part of this.”