The two-year national state of disaster and related economic impact has led to unmatched levels of homelessness in the city – with many people sleeping in public places, including sidewalks, parks, road reserves, and under bridges.
Given this situation, only a unique and unprecedented response will help people off the streets in Cape Town and ensure that public places are available for wider public use.
According to the City of Cape Town, they are proactively dealing with this situation by:
- Expanding City-run Safe Spaces beyond the CBD and Belville.
- Stepping up efforts to assess the circumstances of those on the streets, and offer shelter or social assistance.
- Obtaining court orders regarding the unlawful occupation of public places.
- Enabling the proper application of the Streets By-law: Where the PIE Act is not applicable, the City will apply the Streets by-law as follows:
- City Social Development & ECD staff conduct a social assessment of a person’s circumstances and offer social assistance / shelter.
- If refused, a joint operation with law enforcement takes place in which shelter is again offered.
- If again refused, a compliance notice is issued, indicating the steps, deadline, and consequences of non-compliance.
- If not complied with, a written notice may be issued to appear in court. Offers of social assistance and shelter remain available at all times.
- If the person fails to appear, the court may issue a warrant of arrest.
It will then be up to the court and prosecutors to determine the way forward. The City would like to see the courts ordering rehabilitation, rather than opting for punitive measures such as fines or imprisonment.
The City will also follow these five guiding principles in helping people off the streets:
1. Cape Town must be, first and foremost, a caring city, that always tries first to help people off the streets.
2. No person should live on the streets. This is unsafe, unhealthy, and undignified. Accepting sustainable solutions off the streets is the best choice for dignity, health, and well-being.
3. Our city’s public places serve important social, community and economic purposes, and must be open and available to all. No person has the right to reserve a public space as exclusively theirs, while indefinitely refusing all offers of shelter and social assistance.
4. It is not an offence to sleep on the streets if you do not have a choice. Only after refusing offers of shelter and social assistance, should the law take its course as a necessary last resort deterrent for the sustainable management of public places.
5. The City encourages courts and prosecutors to ensure that rehabilitation is favoured over punitive fines and imprisonment, wherever it is just to do so in matters relating to prohibited conduct in public places.
Read the full statement for more details or read more about the City’s plans to help people off the streets this winter.
Any enquiries and/or complaints relating to persons on the street can be directed to the City’s Public Emergency Communication Centre by dialing 021 480 7700 from a cellphone or 107 from a landline.
This channel is also available for after-hours enquiries about shelter space. The PECC will activate standby teams from the Street People Programme Unit, who will be able to help determine the availability of shelter spaces and related admissions criteria.