Pilot housing project launched in Observatory

Illegal sleeping structures set up at a public open space in Observatory.

A group of homeless people will soon move into their own home in Observatory.

The pilot supportive-housing model is one of three launched through the Streetscapes programme, a project by CBD-based NGO Khulisa Solutions, which helps homeless people integrate into society.

Khulisa Solutions has partnered with the Observatory Improvement District (Obsid), which will provide seed funding, as well as social development services and work opportunities.

In 2018, Khulisa opened its first home in Kuils River and in May this year, it opened a second home in Walmer Estate.

Khulisa’s Jesse Laitinen said they had found that the homeless needed a different housing model, and the home offered those in the programme sheltered work and psychosocial support.

The “housing first” model with fewer conditions regarding substance use or mental-health treatment was an effective way to address homelessness, Ms Laitinen said.

It had demonstrated particular success with chronic homelessness, generally considered the most difficult category to reach and provide services for.

The chronically homeless will access meal services but won’t go to the shelters as they find the rules too restrictive and they have no clear path to integrate back into society.

Observatory, Ms Laitinen said, was a “hot spot” for the homeless as people in the affluent community were very giving.

“There are lots of homeless people coming to the area but not many resources to help tackle the bigger issues around homelessness and the root causes.”

Ten people who are part of the Streetscapes programme will move into the Observatory home next week.

It can accommodate 25 people in a dormitory-style arrangement. They will pay R850 monthly towards their stay and food. No substance use or violence is allowed in the home.

It would be less like a shelter and more homely and the residents would make their own rules, Ms Laitinen said.

During the week, everyone in the house would have to participate in Streetscapes work.

Streetscapes is a reintegration programme that has been running for the past five years.

It helps the homeless with sheltered employment, psychosocial support, access to auxiliary services, counselling and trauma support.

Obsid CEO Amanda Kirk said they had reassessed the way they looked at their social-development services and realised the traditional approach was not going to work.

They piloted a work site in the area which they outsourced to the Streetscapes programme with 10 long-term homeless people taking part in the programme for the past year. She said they essentially acted as a “top-up” service when it came to cleaning public spaces.

“We now essentially have the people living on the streets who are cleaning up the streets — it’s a slow process, but they are starting to look after their own area,” she said.

Ms Kirk believes the home will make a big difference in the lives of the homeless in Observatory.

“There is no quick fix to address homelessness, but this is a step in the right direction. If we can impact the lives of 25 homeless people, it will also help to address the issue of homelessness in the area,” she said.

Donations of money, furnishing, non-perishable food, bedding, towels and clothing are welcomed.