By Karin Schimke, Daily Maverick

Two years ago, Devil’s Peak and Vredehoek, two adjacent suburbs in Cape Town’s City Bowl, were as socially fractured as the rest of South Africa, but a unique approach is turning people who live in formal housing and those who live on the streets into proper neighbours. And everyone is winning.

t’s just after eight on a Tuesday morning and, despite the blustery summer wind noisily shaking the trees, there’s already a peaceful bustling in the garden opposite the petrol station and the Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall in Upper Buitenkant Street.

“Ooh, uh-uh. Ek like nie die wind nie,” says one of the gardeners in greeting as she tucks a tiny lock of hair back into her tight ponytail. She is wearing a blue T-shirt with “Streetscapes” printed in white across it.

In the furthest corner of the garden, a few people wearing the same T-shirt are sitting on a bench waiting for Chantel Sampson. It’s the cleaning team, separate from the people moving among the lush beds of kale, onion, spinach and cabbage, weeding, turning compost, watering or forking over the soil.

What was once an unused, fenced-off piece of city land where council workers occasionally came with their weed eaters to mow down the knee-length grass, is now a public open space with a succulent garden at the entrance, rows upon rows of vegetables planted in a circular, maze-like pattern in the centre, huts for gardening business, water tanks and a compost toilet for the workers.

All of it – down to the very last stone, strut, bench and seed – was moved into place by people who do not live in any of the houses or flats in the area, but who live on the streets…

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