[Hpn] Homeless people line up for warm beds

William Charles Tinker wtinker@metrocast.net
Sat, 10 Jul 2004 18:57:55 -0400


Homeless people queue up for warm beds

July 10 2004

Cape Town's homeless are queueing up for warm beds at city shelters to
escape the cold mid-winter conditions on the streets at night.

But there is sometimes a battle to fit them all in.

Besides putting mattresses on the floor, Michael Prinsloo of the District
Six Haven Night Shelter under Woodstock Bridge has converted an office into
a dormitory that sleeps seven.

He is also planning to build an emergency shelter with its own facilities
for when there are severe storms and the shelter bursts at the seams.

'People will do anything to keep warm'
The homeless are most vulnerable during the cold weather, especially those
who are HIV positive.

Each winter a number of people die of exposure on the city streets.

Prinsloo said people drank alcohol and street children sniffed glue to
ignore the cold.

"People will do anything to keep warm but one of the common dangers is when
they make fires right next to where they are sleeping and then catch fire."

Many of the huge numbers of people needing shelter at this time of year are
ill by the time they arrive.

Prinsloo said 28 people, including adults, small children and a baby, had
been taken off the Grand Parade earlier this year.

The shelters did not normally accommodate children, but made an exception
with this group which included a 15-year-old girl who had been born on the
Parade and had lived there her entire life.

"Three were very very ill with flu and one with suspected tuberculosis, so
we took them to hospital and are now monitoring their medication."

One of the woman, Margaret Meyer, lived on the Parade for three years and
recalled how difficult it was to keep warm.

"We had two blankets and slept on cardboard, and when it rained we had a
plastic sheet but it didn't always help."

Meyer suffers from high blood pressure and water retention which affects her
legs, but says she is improving daily in the shelter.

"Since I met Michael and moved in here, the high blood pressure and water
has vanished."

Prinsloo said that since May, 477 street people had been interviewed and 72
placed in various shelters, excluding the group of 28 from the Parade.

He said 20 of the people had been reunited with their families, some as far
afield as Johannesburg and Pretoria, and seven had been helped to find jobs.

There were still 15 people on a waiting list for accommodation.

Prinsloo appealed for men's clothing, toiletries, bedding and cutlery.

"And food. People eat more in winter," he said.

The shelter in Selkirk Street can be contacted at 021 465 1310 and Napier
Street 021 421 6219.

This article was originally published on page 6 of Saturday Argus on July
10, 2004

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