Members of several District Six associations marched to Western Cape provincial government offices on Friday to protest plans to use the site of a former nursery as a homeless shelter. (Photo: Matthew Hirsch)
- District Six associations marched to protest the proposed homeless shelter.
- They want to use the nursery site in Tafelberg as a community center instead.
- Silvertree Rugby Football Club lost its lease on the site during apartheid, and wants it back.
Residents of District Six opposed the construction of a homeless shelter on the site of a former nursery school gathered outside Western Cape County offices on Friday 14 July. They want to turn the nursery site in Tafelberg into a community center instead.
Silvertree Rugby Football Club, the County Civic League, Upper District Six Neighborhood Watch and the District Six Advocacy Committee have all signed a memorandum delivered to the regional government offices on Will Street.
Provincial government said in March that Ruby Norwalk Day Hospital, which had been earmarked for a homeless shelter, was found unsuitable because of the asbestos. A new site has been identified at the old Tafelberg Nursery in Constitution Street, Zonnebloem, and R18 million has been allocated to the project.
Silvertree chairman Rashid Combrink said the club, which was founded in 1954, had lost its lease on the site during the Group Areas Act, and wanted to return.
“We still run and play with three teams every week. We’re not against homeless shelters, but we want to get back.”
He said the Anglican Church started the Silvertree Boys Club, which later became the Silvertree Rugby Football Club.
“It was run as a community centre, not just for rugby. This is where the kids were busy.”
Shahnaz Arnold, a member of the District Six Civic Association, told GroundUp that they weren’t against homeless shelters, but there was a huge need for recreational spaces in the historic suburb.
“There are no facilities for children to play. They grow up standing in corners, because they don’t know what to do with themselves,” said Arnold.
Tanya Kleinhans, of the District Six advocacy committee, said the government had lost the political will to tackle homelessness.
She said homeless people should be housed with their families.
She added that the shelters are temporary and do not address the causes of homelessness.
We all come from legacies of systemic trauma, but I think this is a Band-Aid case.
She supported the proposal to convert the old nursery school in Tafelberg into a community centre.
“The people are not against the homeless,” said Ronald Bantum, a former principal who attended the sit-in. “Build homeless shelters, but there are many vacant lots you could use. Why this particular land, where we know that people have been removed from that land?”
Ward 77’s DA counselor Francine Higham said she would ask the county government to facilitate the process for public participation on the matter.
The public was invited for comment in June and the process ended on July 14, said Monique Mortlock-Malgas, social development spokeswoman, MEC Sharna Fernandez.
She said all inputs would be taken into account before a final decision was made.
She said the former nursery school in Tafelberg had been identified as a suitable location because of the large number of people living on the street in the immediate area.
“This site has proven most suitable to provide sufficient indoor and outdoor space in an arrangement most suitable for reconfiguration as a shelter, all within close proximity to Cape Town city center and existing shelter services,” said Mortlock-Malgas.
Earlier this year, Fernandez said R31 million had been transferred to 37 homeless adult shelters in the current financial year.
The number of family funded spaces increased from 1,500 in 2020 to nearly 2,400 this year.