NPOs miffed with City’s aid programme

JOHN HARVEY

Non-profit and non-governmental organisations fear they will be left “high and dry” trying to meet the needs of the homeless once the City’s provision of funding and resources under the Winter Readiness Programme comes to an end.

Some NPOs have even labelled the programme a “pointless” and a “cosmetic” response to the plight of the homeless, charging the City’s claim that it assists scores of people during the three-month period is unfounded.

The social development and early childhood development directorate recently called on NGOs and NPOs to apply for aid as part of its Winter Readiness Programme for street people.

“Some shelters are overrun by requests for assistance in winter, when many street people look for a warm and dry place to sleep. Our contribution is meant to ensure that these organisations can help as many people as possible,” said the City’s mayoral committee member for social development, Suzette Little.

Last year the City announced it had doubled its budget for the programme to assist street people from R280 000 in 2014 to more than R600 000.

However Greg Andrews, head of the Zonnebloem-based Street People’s Forum, said while the programme might seem “well-intentioned”, it had many unintended consequences.

“The City says that it assists many homeless people during this period, but unfortunately our figures don’t match. It is a very thorny issue. We have tried time and time again to engage the City on this issue, but to no avail. I think we’ve now reached a point where NPOs are no longer even applying for the Winter Readiness Programme because of this,” Mr Andrews said.

“There is a feeling that the City is using its partnership with the NPOs for its own benefit (to appear that it is assisting the homeless), when in actual fact communication has failed. The City is not even bothering to compromise on how matters could be improved. Their integrity is now questioned by funders, the public and organisations.”

Ashley Potts, director of the Cape Town Drug Counselling Centre in Observatory, said the programme was an “insult”.

“I am very annoyed. It is though the City is expecting the NPOs to solve the homelessness problem for them,” he said.

“It’s as if the City is rounding up homeless people and saying, ‘here, you take care of them’. But the money you are allocated is hardly anything to begin with. I previously worked at another NPO which applied for the readiness programme, and it was horrible. This programme is creating a false impression of what is being done for the homeless.”

Mr Potts added that was presumptuous of the City to think NPOs had a solution.

“If we continue to allow this, we are only creating an enabling situation.”

Not all NGOs felt disgruntled, however. Jurgens Smit, chief executive of Faces and Voices of Recovery South Africa in Pinelands, believed “something was better than nothing” in terms of receiving assistance for the homeless from the City.

“I think (the programme) is good. It might not be sustainable, but it does help.”

Ms Little said: “I am surprised to learn of these concerns, as we hosted a winter readiness workshop earlier this year with organisations to assess the programme. This included unpacking why some requests for aid were turned down and also how the City and its partners can streamline the aid programme going forward. The workshop would have provided a good platform to raise any concerns that organisations may have. The number of people assisted during the winter readiness period stems directly from the provision of available bed space within a shelter. This is recorded and reported to the City’s Street People Unit.

“While I note the fear about having to care for homeless people, I do have to ask the question – is that not the reason why shelters are established in the first place? To provide refuge to street people?”