Sleeping rough presents one of the biggest challenges of survival as a human being. It does not happen overnight and is usually a process triggered by unexpected events and bad choices. Slowly you start sinking into a hole without realising how dark and deep it is becoming until you finally give in to a fatalistic attitude to life.

Homelessness seems to be one of the most difficult problems facing our communities and involves many different inputs and regulations. Solutions are sometimes found in the most unlikely ways.

When COVID-19 resulted in a national lockdown, our local government, Police Force and Department of Social Development (DSD) were in a deadlock trying to find solutions to all the problems, including the homeless, and where to accommodate our own local community of “rough- sleepers” in Mossel Bay.

A most unexpected solution was found when a generous and courageous local businessman offered two accommodation facilities to be used as housing for this group of identified people during the lockdown. By 29 March the Police and DSD had dropped 25 new customers at the Shark Shack and Bay Vista. Johann Binneman, the manager, had the task of settling in the group and dealing with various behavioural and addiction issues that came with the package. With the help of generous donations of clothing, the previously homeless were soon looking brand new, clean and clothed. Recycling is a slow process and being clean is the first step towards feeling human and starting to like yourself again.

The municipality supplied the group with free electricity and was a big support in this uncertain time. After two weeks of struggling to get enough food together for the group, Meals on Wheels started providing meals on a daily basis. Unfortunately this ended on 31 May 2020 as they did not receive their subsidy from the Government to continue with their services. So from 1 June it was a different ball game and we needed to come up with new plans.

Most of the guys have extensive previous work experience and offers a collective pool of a wide variety of skills. They started creating articles to fill their time. Friends from the community were asked to collect scrap articles and materials found while cleaning and sorting their own homes. From these scraps something beautiful started to develop.

Like one of the guys stated: “When somebody is willing to give you a second chance in life the slow and difficult process of recycling begins … and here we are a recycled group of people finding a new direction, perhaps a new life. I can’t go back to where I was. Thank you to all who supported us. You gave us a chance and you helped us find some dignity in the process. To most of us, social distancing isn’t a new concept. People normally keep a good distance from us – we are seen as bad, addicts, dishonest and even dirty and smelly. Sommige dae kan jy my selfs wind-op al ruik! To tell the truth … we survive and develop a different code of life but we survive out rough … social distancing and all.”

Now after two months this group, all so different and yet so similar, have grown close and have become friends. They feel humbled by this experience and the knowledge that their past mistakes and wrongdoings do not necessarily determine their whole life and future. But the road ahead is uncertain so we will appreciate any input, feedback, ideas and suggestions with regards to where to go from here. Also, you could donate an amount of your choice to acquire any of the articles they have created. Please contact Annemarie le Roux on 082 825 4001 to get involved in this wonderful project.