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Vagrants… A Delicate Topic

We’ve all seen it… A homeless person bunked down for the night under the cover of property that benevolently extends its roof over the pavement. We know that with winter setting in we’re likely to see many more vagrants outside our properties. For some this sight brings a deep sense of pity, and for others frustration. All seem to ask the same question: What is being done about it?

Lets look into it:
This is a matter that needs to be addressed with the the City Policing Departments - Metro Police and Law Enforcement. Within in the Metro Police there is a specific unit called the Displaced Peoples Unit (DPU) and they are tasked with addressing the issue of vagrants across the entire city. The city has created a specific hotline number 0800 87 2201 to deal with vagrants. You can call this number at any point and they will log the complaint and give you a reference number. They then send a field worker out to address the problem. If there is no resolution then the problem is escalated to the DPU team to come and do a clean up. Sadly this team works on a reactive complaint basis and does not have the staffing numbers to be proactively dealing with the problem. As a result the more complaints they receive about a specific spot then the more action they are able to take and they will add it to their top hot-spot watch list.

The issues of vagrancy is not really within the SAPS mandate although they should be responding to any complaints received if they have the resources. However with 50% of the resources currently deployed in the area we encourage those to be used to the best effect and in the prevention of property and contact related crime.

The presence of vagrants is problematic and causes no end of complaints however most of the time they are long term homeless people who refuse assistance from the relevant departments. The occasional a new face does pop into the group, or a criminal element which is usually very quickly identified by SAPS and regular patrollers and these people are picked up and fingerprinted and dealt with where possible. However on most occasions there is not much that can be legally done. SAPS and the DPU are not able to forcefully remove people but ask them to move on.

When the DPU do a clean up they remove all the structures and belongings such as bedding. They also ask the vagrants if they would like to be taken to a shelter. But sadly 98% of the time the answer is no. This means that once the clean up team (or SAPS) is gone then they simply return to the same spot within a few hours.

So sadly there is no easy solution but we agree that persistent action is the best way forward to so that nobody gets complacent. The problem will only get worse over the next 6 months with the weather turning and we urge all our members to log complaints with the metro police, make sure that they are not providing a hand out to vagrants nor providing a suitable place for them to sleep. The best way to help is to rather give to the shelters who are trying to create more sustainable solutions.

Click this link to see a list of Shelters in Cape Town