For 12 years Capetonian Philip Snyman was a homeless heroin addict facing a bleak future, whose only goal was to get high.
Adopted from the South African Children’s Home at 13, Snyman, 34, lived with his adoptive parents in Cape Town’s affluent suburb of Oranjezicht, on the slopes of Table Mountain.
But at the age of 21, Snyman got addicted to heroine and went to live on the street, begging for money to support his addiction.
Snyman said he could make over R150 through begging and all of it was spent on heroin.
He was once arrested for shoplifting and found in possession of drugs, he said.
But all this is of the past as Snyman has abandoned his habit and has since remained clean for the past nine months, thanks to Somerset West Night Shelter which for 25 years has been taking care of homeless people in Somerset West.
Chairwoman of the shelter Jo Swart said when homeless people came to seek help, their first week at the shelter is free. Thereafter the homeless person could pay a fee of R10 a night.
The shelter helped homeless people fill out ID and state social grant applications and gave them accomodation, food and access to baths, said Swart.
Snyman said he had quit heroine last year on August 27 and the night shelter had helped rehabilitate him.
Recalling his heroin addiction, he said his universe was centred on the drug as he would wake up every morning to beg for money on the streets and bought a small packet of heroin at a cost of R35.
“Addiction is a vicious circle that spans out of control and makes you feel just like dead,” said Snyman.
“I now have overcome it (the addiction). I speak to social workers and go to (drug addicts’) group sessions. I have learnt how to overcome it. I have learnt my strengths and weaknesses,” he said. “I would never want to go back to the same lifestyle. The night shelter has helped me to work towards a better life.”
He was no longer in touch with his adoptive parents as they had divorced.
People must be aware of what was going on in their community and make a difference, said Swart.
She said her organisation was in the process of creating a database for homeless people which is going to be linked to other organisations helping homeless people.
The idea, she said was to keep records of homeless people to get know which night shelter they had visited before and what kind of help they required.
In the meantime, the controversial movement People Against Gansterism and Drugs’ (Pagad) National Assistant Coordinator Osmane Sahib said drugs and gangsterism was on the increase daily in the Cape Flats – and accused the government of having no plans to address the scourge of drugs and gangsterism.
He said previously the age of drug addicts started from teenagers upwards, but now “even nine-year-olds in primary schools are using drugs”. –Peter Luhanga