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Homeless, bridge dwellers issues discussed

Last week Minister Dan Plato held a meeting with the Somerset West community.

Plato, the provincial minister for Community Safety, addressed the public on Thursday 26 July. The meeting came as a result of residents being fed up with the issue of vagrancy and the problems stemming from it.

Somerset West resident, Neill Matthews, a neighbour of the infamous 6 Bellona Street, reached out to the minister after problems with the homeless still did not subside even after the house was demolished last year.

After 6 Bellona Street was demolished, the homeless who occupied the house did not move out of the area but found other shelter in the vicinity thus not solving the initial problem residents had.

“It is still an issue because people are still being robbed and assaulted. Especially the residents from the various retirement villages who have to walk to the shopping centres. A lot of them have come to the point where they are too scared to wander the streets and have resorted to waiting when someone uses a car to go the shops and send their shopping lists with them,” said Matthews.

Furthermore Matthews said round about 150 people showed up to the meeting and according to him the majority of residents shared their discontent with the South African Police Service in Somerset West.

“I invited members of the Somerset West Police Station to attend the meeting but instead received a letter from them saying that they won’t be able to attend the meeting because they have other activities to tend to. But at the moment they do nothing to alleviate the problem of vagrancy and the problems arising from it. Mostly the local security companies have been to the bridge in Andries Pretorius street almost every day to remove the people and recover stolen goods.”

He adds that Plato has scheduled a follow-up meeting that will be held on Tuesday 11 September at the Helderberg Dutch Reformed Church Hall in Firmount Street, Somerset West.

“The minister said they want to make sure that SAPS attends the next meeting. Personally, I am also appealing to the residents to attend the meeting, as well as residents from Strand and Gordon’s Bay.

“The problem is not going to go away on its own, at this stage you have to ask yourself when it will be your turn to endure a run-in with a homeless person who wants to harm you.”

At the next meeting, he says, Plato will also give the community tips on what to do when they find themselves in a situation where someone has trespassed onto their property and is putting their family in danger.

Local ward councillor Greg Peck also attended the meeting and said a lot of things were said but no one could come up with a solution.

“Not all of us are experts in this area, but I do believe that some of these claims about the homelessness are unsubstantiated. If people understand the situations that led to people living on the streets, they would understand street people. Not all of them are criminally inclined. Some of the reasons that they have ended up on the streets are sad, heartbreaking reasons. But instead of everyone just complaining about it, people need to come up with solutions as well.”

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