The Western Cape Department of Social Development (DSD) is rendering departmental assistance towards the most vulnerable people who had been deceived into staying in squalid conditions at Geneva House.
Geneva House, located in Eerste River, is owned by the Department of Public Works, and was intended to be a shelter for women who are victims of abuse, operated by a registered NGO. However this had long ceased to be the case, as the facility had been misused and operated instead as low-cost accommodation, with the owner of the non-compliant NGO pocketing rent money.
Most concerning, the department received reports from the South African Police Services of criminals and gangs who had begun to operate from the building, including allegedly peddling illicit substances.
From as far back as February this year, numerous departmental attempts to reach the residents in order to do necessary assessments and to identify the vulnerable were consistently blocked, and on many occasions social workers were physically attacked and chased off the site.
Through the Department of Public Works, an eviction process was initiated via a court order, and social workers were on site offering assistance to residents. Ample forewarning had been given to the inhabitants, and some persisted with threatening and intimidating social workers going on-site to do assessments of residents prior to the evictions.
Our assessment revealed that only 4% of the inhabitants were people in need of shelter due to being victims of abuse, and that the majority were people in need of housing. DSD has liaised with other state agencies to assist in this regard, however our first priority are vulnerable people in need of our shelter services.
Through our NGO partners, The Ark, shelter was offered, with special attention paid to the most vulnerable segments, including children, women and older persons. Just under 30 adults have refused any assistance from the department, opting to stay outside the venue.
The department will continue to offer assistance, and discussions are underway with other departments and state agencies, to look at longer term interventions. Any member of the public looking to assist, can contact the DSD hotline on 0800 220 250.
Spokesperson for Albert Fritz, Minister of Social Development
Western Cape Government
7th floor, 14 Queen Victoria Street, Cape Town, 8000
Tel : (021) 483 9217
Cell : 076 083 6543
Email : Sihle.Ngobese@westerncape.gov.za