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NGOs to take on City of CT over fines for homeless people

Sixteen organisations, including the Community Chest, the Haven Night Shelter and the National Network on Street Homelessness met this week.

The City of Cape Town's Safe Space shelter for homeless people. Picture: Kaylynn Palm/EWN

CAPE TOWN - Cape Town NGOs want an urgent look into by-laws that some said criminalised homelessness.

Sixteen organisations, including the Community Chest, the Haven Night Shelter and the National Network on Street Homelessness, met this week.

This after public debate over the City of Cape Town's enforcement of by-laws, which led to the issuing of 199 fines to homeless people.

The NGOs want the by-laws investigated urgently and they want to know how they align with the Constitution.

However, Mayor Dan Plato maintained the enforcement was constitutionally correct. The Community Chest's Lorenzo Davids said the enforcement of the by-law had the effect of criminalising homelessness.

“We mustn’t even think that the one size fits all mentality will be efficient to fix the chronic homelessness we have in the City. The criminalisation of homelessness is against the Constitution of this country,” Davids said.

But, the Haven Night Shelter's Hassan Khan had a different view.

“We believe in one law for one community, you can’t have exemption. And at the same time, we recognised that the person isn’t being fined for being homeless [but they’re] issued a fine after intervention at a social work level and refusing to breakdown a tented structure,” Khan said.

The 16 NGOs concluded to look into the legality of fining the homeless.