Mandela Day with Gloria Botha Students

Letter from Gloria Botha School:

(L to R) Jeremy Blair Hook, Johan von Willigh, Jeannie Pienaar, Rene van der Westhuizen, Yolandi Theron, Jeandre van Deventer and Caitlin Swart.
The School is Gloria Botha School (Mentally Challenged Learners)

Learners were informed of the care supplied to the homeless at the night shelter. We used R50 of our class funds (which we collect by selling hotdogs on Fridays) to buy 5 vouchers as our contribution for  Mandela Day.  Responsibility towards the community is part of the Life Skills curriculum. Another topic that Wayne touched on that is also covered in Life Skills are reasons why people become homeless.  Drug and alcohol abuse as well as rebellion against the family were discussed.  These learners are teenagers and although they lead very protected and pure lives at this stage, it is good to confront  them with the consequences of these practises and behaviours. Our learners are used to being on the receiving end when it comes to charity. It was a positive experience for them to be able to give to others. Wayne made a very positive impression on them and if he could help the boys with woodwork for an hour a week, even if it is just once or twice, it would be wonderful.

The Night That Was

A week ago, this Blog noted that participants from The Night Shelter and Somerset West Round Table 31 would be spending the night out in the cold, in solidarity with those who have no choice but to live on streets. This effort was aimed at raising Awareness of The Night Shelter, as well as practical support.

It is with pleasure that we offer our sincere thanks to the Volunteers from Table, Manuka Restaurant and you, our local residents.  This event raised R2160-00 in financial support, and The Night Shelter received 4 crates of grocery donations and 130kg of clothing.

In addition, The Shelter also sold R550-00 worth of Vouchers as part of our Give Responsibly efforts.

It is heartwarming to be aware of the generosity of spirit prevalent in the Helderberg. Tablers, having braved the Longest Night of Winter in Tshirts and Shorts, deliver donations to The Shelter.  

The Longest Night – a perfect opportunity to help!

This Friday 22 June 2012, Somerset West Round Table 31 will be taking part in a project called Winter Knights.  Volunteers from Round Table will start the evening in nothing more than a pair of shorts and tshirt, spending the night out in the cold, in solidarity with those who have no choice but to live on streets. It is the hope of Round Table 31 that this effort will encourage our generous Helderberg residents to come to their aid – which in effect means coming to the aid of the impoverished of our community. And so in order to keep warm throughoug the night, the Tablers will use only what is donated throughout the night to keep themselves warm!.  The Somerset West Night Shelter staff team will be on hand to answer questions about the Night Shelter, and to receive any donations of old clothes, blankets or non perishable food.  In addition, the Helderberg Neighbourhood Watch will be on hand, selling blankets, which can, in turn, be donated to The Night Shelter. The Tablers will begin their evening at Manuka Restaurant parking lot, along the Main Road into Somerset West at 18h00 and will remain out in the cold until 06h00 Saturday morning. We would appeal to every resident and/of business of this beautiful Helderberg area to assist. For further information, please contact The Night Shelter Manager on 021 851 4984.  

A HUGE THANK YOU without your help, what we do would not be possible!

N G Kerk Gordans Bay- Baskets of Hope Soup kitchen – 200 litres of ice cream The Ark – chicken Phils Motors – fresh vegetables Helderberg Rotary – clothing Carona Service Centre – bread rolls Pick and Pay – weekly groceries Woolworths – weekly groceries Pastor Marie – groceries Van Der Vyver Transport – 250 litres of longlife milk Metodist Church – clothing Kraaifontein Haven – meaty bones BP Disa – rice

Craft Morning with the Ladies for Mothers Day

It was with great enthusiasm that the ladies from the women’s bible study group at Life Church and the ladies at the local Night Shelter, tackled this craft project in a bid to raise funds for the shelter. They created gorgeous air-dry clay shapes that will be sold at the church for Mothers Day. “Our vision is to make the ladies of the shelter feel loved and accepted and to empower them by teaching them these crafts”, said Marlize Lotz, who led the craft session. The group does a different craft session with the shelter each month and welcome anyone that would like to get involved. Contact Debbie Franckeiss 073 147 0201 or Bilinda Kamp 083 325 5144 from Life Church.

Calling all Bookworms!

The Night Shelter is establishing an onsite library! 

The brainchild of our Administrator, Nazleah, this project celebrates exactly those community relationships which enable the Night Shelter to continue to operate:  an informal collaborative effort between the Somerset West Library and The Shelter.

The Somerset West Library not only provided the much needed advice we required in order to set up, but also donated boxes of books! Our huge thanks to Library staff for their input.

The Shelter is now in need of a suitable cupboard in which to house the books.  A unit with glass doors would be ideal.  We would also appeal to the general public and local churches for further book and bible donations.  Please contact Nazleah on 021 851 4984 for further details or to find out how you might get involved and/or assist.

Nightshelter Chronicles

It was last year December (2011) that I ended up on the streets of Somerset-West. 

After all my resources were diminished, via so-called friends, I was left all on my own behind the Somerset-West Pick n Pay.  A few street folk approached me asking the normal: either a cigarette or something to eat. I didn’t have any. I managed to get into one of the holes under the bridge, which in turn would be home for at least 2 months. I was hungry and cold – but to proud to ask anything from any one. At night when no-one looked, I would go and look for food at the bins of the retail stores.

Later I became friends with some of the street people and I found myself in a typical “survivor style” way of life. It involved various things we had to do in order to survive, of which I’m not going to mention a thing about, because in some instances we had to step over the confines of the law.

Drug abuse and reckless behavior was at the order of the day and deep down within me I felt that I should not get used to living like this. Every now and then the City of Cape Town’s Law Enforcement officers would confiscate our bedding, clothing and other valuable items. I was outraged.

I told my so-called brother and sisters that we must organize a quasi-military formation.  They obviously didn’t know anything I was talking about. After I explained to them what I meant in the most graphic of detail, they understood and were amazed. So I worked out an attack formation strategy for the next time my brothers and I met with Law Enforcement or any other  enforcement agency.  That night I sat on the Lourensrivier Bridge and felt mighty and powerful even though I had nothing. I started envisioning myself to be an ancient Khoisan King or something. And I was drugged almost to the brink of an overdose. I was everyone’s favorite and every street person gave me something of the little they accumulated during the day. After a while it was compulsory to supply ‘the King’.

Whilst sitting there on that bridge watching the water run under the bridge, I suddenly woke up. Yes many of you that are reading this story may think, “there goes the outer body experience”. I could not put my finger on it but there I was looking at myself. I could see how I lead these kids on the street to their destruction. How I empowered them in a sense where by they’ll use their daily fed aggression. I saw how many of them go to jail for crimes I commanded them to do.

I went to sleep in my little hole not more than one meter in diameter.

The following morning I made my way to the Heldervalley Community Forum. Without any slumber they immediately contacted the Somerset-West Night Shelter and organized a meeting with them. I was excited and I knew that soon I’ll be back on track.  During that week the members of my so-called organization were worried about me, asking me strange questions, like “are you leaving us?”. I did not answer any of it.

The Friday morning Jo Swart (Chairperson of the Night Shelter) and her colleague came to the HCF and had a long meeting with Ernst Johannes and others.  I was waiting in anticipation and was at one point negative in a sense, thinking that they may not accept me because of my vicious and dark background.

The meeting finished and the two ladies stepped out of the board and like a dog that waits patiently and with those wanting eyes, I heard, “come Xavier lets go book you in”. At the time I fought the tears with everything within me because I was overwhelmed with joy and sadness. More joy.

At the office of the Night Shelter I could not fight it any longer, the tears started to role freely from my emotionless stare. I officially became the child of my family tree to be booked into a Night Shelter. It angered me, I asked the question: why have my family for saken me?. But then after all the paper work was done the onus was now upon me to adapt to my new environment.

When those first droplets of hot water from an actual shower touched my head for the first time in three months, the feeling was beyond my comprehension.

It took me about 15minutes to finish a plate cooked food because I did not want to finish it, it was so tasty.

As night time neared, lights off was announced, and I was tucked away in bed like it was supposed to be.

The 1st night I could not actually sleep, because I thought to myself:  And this haven was here all the time whilst I’m on the brink of organizing people to make war with the authorities. 

I  decided that I’m going to restore myself first and then when I can stand on my own legs, I’ll scout out to try and help the brotherhood come to their senses. I felt human again and wasn’t shy for anyone who might have known me prior to my depletion.

I decided to work on the foundations of once again establishing a publication of my own. “Who are we to be bold, beautiful, well mannered and sought after, for it is not that we are inadequate, just in itself we can be or are powerful beyond measure”.


I don’t know who said these words, but at the Night Shelter I learned what it is to return to oneself, to be humble again.

To be continued…


Making Money out of old bottles

String of plastic bottles ready for the tank
Skills development partnership with E washa water purification project
A local company gave us the opportunity to partner with them, Piet Venter manufactures a water     purification plan for car wash and transport depots. The tanks are fitted with strings of cool drink plastic bottles, the water is circulated and purified so it can be used again to wash cars. The skills partners at the night shelter manufacture the bottle strings. And get paid per string. The amount the skills partners earn is enough to pay their monthly fees for board and lodging at the shelter.  If they are making one set of 50 strings per week the amount that they earn in a month is twice the minimum wage others earn in the open market. It is the first project that we have secured to give a recurring and sustainable income to the skills partners and it will be the aim of the skills development program.  We are looking forward to bringing similar projects into the Skills Development initiative. At present we are supported by Beaumont School with the supply of bottles, 500ml, 1 litre and 2-literrebottles. We collect every Monday morning ,we could do more strings if the volume of bottles are increased by  local churches and business helping to supply.  Bottles can be dropped off at the Shelter or at Life church, which is on the corner of BP & Lord Charles hotel. The 0rganic vegitable garden and rabbit farming project are ganing momentum and should soon be operational. I would like to thank you for your support, Andre, Skills Co-Ordinator

Big Clean Up

For many months and weeks, the Management Committee of the Shelter have expressed to Staff and Clients who we offer service to the need to keep the shelter clean.  The shelter has a set of rules which we ask all the clients to abide by.  One of the rules is that we insist that clients keep no more than 20 kg of personal belongings in their locker.  Each client has a locker.  The staff have found it very difficult to manage this process of making sure that clients don’t store up more than what they are allowed to under their beds, up on shelves etc.  Cockroaches breed like crazy when we can’t get underneath the beds to clean and behind lockers, clients also take food into the rooms after repeatedly being warned and asked not too.  We set a day aside – yesterday where we got stuck in and cleaned up like we have never done before.  We made sure that the clients had notice, were explained to clearly as to what would happen.  We bought bags for them to store their belongings, labelled the bags and stored them neatly in a storeroom.  Bedding was put in separate bags.  This gave us the opportunity to pull away the lockers from the walls, move the beds, flip the mattresses, change the old ones for newer ones and sort all the ‘extra’ unclaimed items that were lying around.  We gave the clients who have over and above their 20 kg quota the opportunity to bag it up, label it and store it for one week, whilst they make other arrangements for their belongings.  The shelter is not a FOREVER HOME and was never meant to be.  Some clients have been staying in the shelter far longer than 3 months, which is our desired maximum stay per a client.  The longer they stage the more they gather, especially the women. A few of our clients require accommodation at the shelter during the day due to their physical ailments.  We are not a day shelter, however due to the lack of services offered in the Helderberg area for people in vulnerable conditions we try to assist the most desperate during the day.  We gave these few ample notice that they would need to vacate the shelter for the day, we offered to accommodate them at a lovely venue nearby, which was generously offered by a local church.  An air conditioned facility with comfortable seating and refreshments would be provided.  The group decided not to take up the offer.  So on Monday morning, bags were filled, tagged and everyone was asked to leave, except for those contracted to assist with the cleaning and those involved in the Skills Development Centre. A group of 20 clients thought that they would make a big noise, rant and rave with placards in order to tell of their plight to the local newspapers, officials and public.  By lunch time they had calmed down.  From 3 pm onwards the staff and committee started processing the intake of the women, then men.  Everyone who slept at the shelter on the Sunday night was able to have a bed on the Monday night.  We did have a first come first serve admission criteria last night and will do the same tonight.  We can no longer offer services to clients who do not communicate to us about work obligations and the possible need to be late, clients who simply are absent for nights that suit them and clients who disobey the rules.  No longer can we accommodate clients on mattresses on the floor in the dining hall due to fire and safety hazards.  The shelter can only accommodate 64 clients.  We will help clients who abide by rules and who work with us, not against us. There are many more than 64 people in the Helderberg in need of accommodation, a warm shower, nutritious plate of food and access to clothing, skills development etc. Intimidation by clients, verbally abusive and threatening language will not be tolerated.  Our shelter has to be run efficiently and effectively.  The Cape Argus, District Mail and Die Son have all phoned to get a comment from the shelter.