The Devil’s Peak Vredehoek Outreach programme takes a new look at a chronic problem

By James Stent, GroundUp
  • A Cape Town suburb has tried a new approach to helping its homeless people.
  • The Devil’s Peak Vredehoek Outreach uses peer educators to improve the lives of homeless residents.
  • The voluntary association, developed from the neighbourhood watch, takes a supportive approach to homelessness in the area.
  • The programme is showing some success.

Wednesday saw the first public meeting of the Devil’s Peak Vredehoek Outreach, a voluntary, community association formed to help homeless people in the area.

About 30 people, including members of the organisation and homeless residents met at the Service Dining Room in town. Devil’s Peak and Vredehoek are adjacent City Bowl suburbs between Philip Kgosana Drive and Upper Buitenkant Street.

DPV Outreach, which has applied for non-profit status, has partnered with Streetscapes, an off-shoot of national non-profit organisation Khulisa Social Solutions, to run an outreach support programme for homeless people.

The programme is led by fieldworker Chantal Sampson. Five years ago, Sampson was living in Van Riebeeck Park in Vredehoek. She had been homeless for five years. After a meeting with Streetscapes and residents, Sampson got involved. Today, she works with Streetscapes as a peer educator and leads the DPV Outreach programme.

On any given day, Sampson might be assisting a homeless person apply for an ID or reconnect with their family. Among other tasks, Sampson also teaches life skills, organises health assessments, makes appointments for counselling and arranges yoga sessions.

Sampson manages a team of 13 people who were once homeless or unhoused residents in the area. The team cleans streets, picks up litter and sweeps verges.

Within three months of the programme’s inception in December 2021, seven of the 11 team members had found a place to live, with a further two people moving into homes next month. The team members all have bank accounts, most have bought their own cellphones, and three work out monthly budgets for themselves. Sampson’s team report greatly improved interpersonal skills, most have had physical and mental health assessments and support, and 11 team members play football or do yoga…

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