News agency, Cape Town, South Africa
Sunday September 15th 2019

New centre aims to help homeless people off the streets

George Davis, 51, is one of the first people to make use of the new Assessment Centre in Observatory which aims to help homeless people reintegrate back into society. Photo: Kate Gerber/WCN

The first Assessment Centre in Observatory for homeless people has only been open a few days and is still taking delivery of basic amenities, yet ten homeless people are already settled in and beginning rehabilitation programs.

The centre on Franklin Street was opened by Mayoral Committee Member for Social Services and Early Childhood Development Beverley Cortje-Alcock on March 1, and it is the first of seven planned Assessment Centres to be developed in Muizenberg, Strand, Mitchell’s Plain, Cape Town, Belville, and Table View.

Cortje-Alcock and centre manager Melanie Brand say the Assessment Centre is not a shelter for the homeless or simply a way for the city to get homeless people off the streets.

Brand said the centre was a halfway house for homeless people who wanted to turn their lives around.

“It was never supposed to be another shelter. We wanted to create a centre where the individual would have their needs met,” she said.

People coming to the centre would receive a physical and psychological assessment and a social worker would evaluate their life skills.

“We look at where they are and where they want to go in order to decide which exit strategy is best for each individual. They are only sent out once they are ready,” said Brand.

She said she had fought with the city for the establishment of the centre for three years before permission was granted and a partnership with the city and field officers was formed in December last year, she said.

“The City is really pleased with our pilot program here and are planning to open a new centre that will cover Rosebank to Muizenberg, within the next two months.”

George Davis, 51, is one of the people who have accessed the centre since its opening.

“Law enforcement was always chasing me from one place to the next. It felt like I was always on the run. On the streets, people I came across stole my stuff. I never felt safe,” said Davis.

He said recently he met a security guard at Groote Schuur who “for once”, treated him “like a human being”.

“I asked them for help. Not for directions to a shelter but for proper help. They took me to a police station and took my fingerprints. When I was cleared of any outstanding charges against me, they referred me to the centre.”

Fingerprinting is essential says Brand to ensure those admitted to the centre did not pose a danger to others.

Davis said he was grateful for the opportunity to put the past behind him.

“I did everything wrong when I was young. I used to rob people. I was shot during a robbery and the bullet is still inside me. I went to jail for it and paid my dues. I now have a second chance to live a better life.”

The inhabitants interviewed said the centre felt like home.

“I feel as though I am walking into my own house,” said Davis. “I am very happy here. The people here really want us to get jobs. They are here to help us. It’s not just a shelter.”

“We were clear with the City from the beginning that this centre was not going to be a dumping ground for the dispossessed,” said Melanie. “It is a holistic healing centre. It’s the rehabilitation of mind, body and soul.”

“I want to get my own roof over my head when I leave,” said George.

“I know what I want for myself now.”

Mayoral Committee Executive Officer for Social and Early Childhood Development, Trevor Steyn, said entry to the Assessment Centre was voluntary.

“We do not arrest people. Our strategy is a social development approach.”

Steyn said fieldworkers did outreach work to motivate homeless people to seek help at the centre.

“We are excited about the project because it is consistent with our social development approach that deals with the street people program in a developmental and holistic manner. It identifies that people need more than food and shelter to be reintegrated back into their society of origin or into places where their dignity is enhanced,” said Steyn. – Kate Gerber

Tags: Assessment Centre in Observatory, Beverley Cortje-Alcock, Franklin Street, George Davis, Melanie Brand, Social Services and Early Childhood Development, Trevor Steyn

Reader Feedback

10 Responses to “New centre aims to help homeless people off the streets”

  1. Maretta Bellingan says:


    I work for a tv-programme who does social upliftment stories. I would very much like to get in contact with Melanie Brand from the Observatory assesment centre.


  2. Michele Breuninger says:

    Hi there

    I recently bought a stand with a house on it for the gardener as he was constantly being arrested for squatting. Subsequently the mother of his child who did not live with him, decided that no ‘madam’ would buy him a house and therefore it was actually his.

    She then sold the house and disappeared with the money and his child from another woman. He now has no where to live again until the committee member comes back from the Transkei. The people who paid his ‘wife’ for the house refuse to acknowledge that she shouldn’t have sold to them and he no has nowhere to live again until the committee mama comes back.

    I would be grateful if you could provide me with details that I could use to find him some shelter in the meantime.

    Michele Breuninger

  3. Eldrid says:

    Can I please have your contact details I am in a crises.
    Much appreciate it, I am seeking rehabilitation at the CDCC
    Eldrid Swart

  4. Siphumelele Khuzwayo says:

    Hi, I would like to get in touch with the Assessment Centre.

  5. clinton du plooy says:

    hi,my name is clinton du plooy and i neeed help asap asi am on the stret.can i come and meeet you people .give adress.i am on the streets of claremont,pleas help i canot live like this pleas.
    id no 7007225121084,42 years old devorced,unemployd etc.


  6. margie blake says:

    Are you still functioning? Our church, St Peters Mowbray, is looking for a shelter for a member of our congregation. He is well-spoken and has some education in hotel work and PCs. He is now homeless and needs help shedding dependencies (not drugs or alcohol) and taking responsibility for his life. Please contact me at the above address or on 0847101061.
    Thank you.

  7. ann grey says:

    Could iplease have contact detsils as i know of someone in crisis

  8. m smit says:

    Pse advise who i can contact to obtain more details regarding criteria needed to be part of the programme it works.
    M Smit

  9. m smit says:

    Pse advise who i can contact regarding criteria to partake in programme and general information
    M Smit

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