One of the few key initiatives by City of Cape Town’s Social Development and Early Childhood Development Directorate, which supposedly aims to service street people, is the Winter Readiness Programme.
In theory the programme seeks to bolster existing independent service providers in the sector, in particular shelters, with additional resources over the course of the three most severe winter months (June, July and August).
By participating in the programme shelters commit to taking in additional people during this period, providing them with a roof over the heads and bed space.
But herein lies the impossible dilemma:
In order for organisations to qualify for statutory funding, they have to demonstrate compliance with various laws including Fire Safety Regulations. The Winter Readiness Programme does not provide exemption from this requirement but by participating in the programme and taking in additional people the organisations will break the law. Participation in the programme means organisations risk losing funding, being prosecuted and opening themselves up to liability should anything go wrong. By not participating organisations are deemed by clients and the public as callous and uncaring, and branded by the city as unwilling to collaborate.
The Street People’s Forum (SPF) and many of its member organisations have over the years raised this issue with the City but it remains unresolved. The City has yet to respond appropriately to requests from organisations for protection under the Winter Readiness Programme, this year.
We call on the City to resolve this issue urgently and to enable our organisations to do their jobs within the ambit of the law and without compromising their very existence.