Village garden hit hard

Lone garden worker, Hennie Paulse, at work maintaining the Somerset West Village Garden.

The Somerset West Village Garden (SWVG), which has played a significant role in aiding homeless people in the Helderberg Basin, has been hard hit by the national 21-day lockdown.

Up to 40 people work at the garden during the week, earning a token in return for their labour, which they can exchange at Thomas House of Hope in Victoria Street, Somerset West, for meals, assistance in getting an ID document, clothing, toiletries and showers.

“With the lockdown regulations, and the need for social distancing, even though we have been granted classification as providing an essential service, we cannot continue as we have in the past,” says Jenny Findlay, director and founder of SWVG.

“This creates tremendous problems for the street people who work in our garden, where they meet for lunch and social interaction. They have lost the sense of routine which is so vital to people who are dealing with addiction, or trying to regain their place in society. They have also lost the sense of community that working in the garden fosters.

“Because they cannot earn tokens during this period, we have arranged for them to have a meal each day at Thomas House of Hope, for which they do not need to exchange a token,” said Ms Findlay, “and in return, we will be supplying Thomas House of Hope and the Somerset West Night Shelter with vegetables each week.”

The lockdown means that the weekly Tuesday vegetable market is also suspended, cutting off the SWVG’s revenue stream.

“Hennie Paulse, who has been with us for a long time, is taking care of daily maintenance and watering. He harvests once a week, and I deliver the vegetables to Thomas House of Hope and the night shelter,” Ms Findlay said.

Bolander raised the matter of accommodation of homeless people in the Helderberg during the lockdown period with City of Cape Town mayoral committee member for community services and health, Dr Zahid Badroodien, on Saturday and he said: “There’s a location being prepared in Somerset West that will be able to take on 300 plus individuals. It should be ready within the next three to five days.”

“I was really worried about what was going to happen the people who work at the garden during the lockdown, so I’m really grateful to the City of Cape Town for moving so expeditiously in making accommodation available,” said Ms Findlay.