Homeless headaches at station

A growing number of homeless people are sleeping in and around Lansdowne station.

Commuters have complained that a growing number of vagrants in the Lansdowne station precinct are drinking and drugging in public and are behind robberies in the area.

Lansdowne resident Wayne Theunissen said it was becoming a “massive risk” to use the station because of the vagrants “begging, stealing and sleeping” around the station.

“I use this station every single day, and there are always some new faces hanging around here. The area itself is starting to look like a mess, and it’s no longer safe to use this station.

“Although nothing has ever happened to me, I’ve heard of people being robbed or harassed by the people sleeping at the station,” Mr Theunissen said.

“They choose to sleep around the station so they can beg for money to buy alcohol and drugs. When the alcohol and drugs dry up, the station has enough people to harass for money or even rob.”

There was also a growing litter problem in the area and parts of the station had been vandalised, he said.

“It’s bad enough that they are sleeping around the station, but to see the little respect they have for their surroundings is even worse.

“One understands that it must be hard for them sleeping on the streets during these cold days, but with the stuff they are getting up to daily makes it hard for people to feel sorry for them,” Mr Theunissen said.

Josephine Rollings said “unsavoury characters” were being drawn into the area.

“One morning, I was on my way to work, I saw a group of men sniffing glue and smoking dagga. When I returned later that afternoon, the men were still there, sniffing glue and smoking dagga, but had a few new faces who had joined their party.” She suspects some of the men are linked to robberies in the area.

“How else can they afford to live this kind of life – always money for alcohol and drugs, but no money for food and shelter?”

Lansdowne police spokesman Sergeant Nkululeko Mnyaka confirmed they had received complaints about robberies and drug crimes in the area.

Police arrested two men on Thursday last week for threatening a man with a toy gun and robbing him of his cellphone and cash.

“Regular patrols are done during peak hours of the morning and afternoons. Lansdowne railway station is a hot spot,” said Sergeant Mnyaka. “Residents must keep on reporting crime and criminal activities there.”

Eddie Andrews, mayoral committee member for area south, said the City could not force anyone off the streets and the street people near the station had rebuffed offers of assistance from the City’s reintegration unit.

“Street people are treated like any other resident. They are subject to the law and if anyone behaves in a manner that amounts to a contravention of the City’s by-laws, then officers will act in terms of the law,” he said.

Mr Andrews said communities also had a role to play because street people would often gather in areas where they could expected hand-outs from residents.

Metrorail said it had not had any complaints about homeless people in the area, but shelters had been put up near the station on Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) land.

Riana Scott, the spokeswoman for Metrorail, Prasa’s commuter rail service, said it had “constrained” resources to deal with vagrancy, but Prasa was working with the City of Cape Town at “scores of stations” to clear illegally occupied land.

“Dwellers can only be relocated through a legal process of eviction once the City has designated an alternative serviced site,” she said.

Prasa’s asset protection unit had had to step up its vigilance to protect sites from vandalism, and Ms Scott said it was “unfortunate” that Prasa had to divert resources from other priorities to tackle vagrants and vandals.

BLOB Residents can report vagrancy to the City’s displaced persons unit at 021 596 1999 or 0800 225 669.