Desperate people turned away for lack of space. Many quad and paraplegics can’t be cared for well enough at home.Why is Government sitting on the National Special Needs Housing Programme?
“It feels inhumane to have to turn them away due to the lack of space!” This is the response of a house mother at a ‘safe house’ in Stellenbosch who cares for women fleeing battering husbands. Such statements are echoed across the country by carers of the most vulnerable among us; orphans, older people; those with disabilities; victims of domestic violence; terminally ill and frail people; destitute people; those receiving substance abuse rehabilitation services; parolees and people released on probation and victims of serious crime and human trafficking. That’s a wide swath of people and affects community work we all applaud.
“Women normally arrive accompanied by a police officer who takes them to a safe house,” said the house mother, “imagine this woman standing in front of our door with a bleeding lip and a black eye clutching her terrified children by the hand, desperate for help and in urgent need of a safe alternative home. We realise all the courage and desperation it took to take this step and this makes it inhumane to have to turn them away. We will squash up women to make space for them, but there is a limit.”
Official approval awaited
They have insufficient space because the Minister of Human Settlement is sitting on the official approval of a Special Housing Needs Programme (SHNP) policy. This is the vehicle by which capital funding for new housing and refurbishments for needy people can go forward. It’s been stagnating for nearly 9 months.
Ari Sierlis, CEO of the QuadPara Association says, “Many quadriplegics and paraplegics living in their own home environment are not well cared for, not as a result of the lack of love and compassion, but rather the expense and expertise which is necessary for the correct health and wellness of people with spinal cord injury. This policy,” he says, “needs to be implemented urgently to allow existing facilities the opportunity to scale their services and also for new facilities to be developed.”
One welfare organisation has been given land in various provinces but they cost money in rates and taxes and may have to be sold if they cannot be developed for the purpose for which they were given. The African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) has taken up the cudgels and is pressing to bring attention to this issue that has been under deliberation for 15 years. Having received Ministry approval at a forum in March, the draft programme is yet to be subjected to the policy approval and decision-making process. The Minister of Human Settlements, (DHS) Lindiwe Sisulu, has failed to put it on the agenda of four approval platforms that have taken place since then. When asked why the hold up, the Minister dodged the issue by describing the process but not explaining why. The development of the policy revealed ways that these group housing facilities can be provided via the DHS at a quarter to one third of the regular construction costs (still meeting norms and standards) and can be operated and managed by NPOs for far less than if it done so by government. People involved perceive that to government, housing needs of those who require special care are less equitable than others and receive less priority (to which this legislation holdup stands testimony) than high profile megaprojects like Cornobia, Gateway or housing projects in mining towns.
In calling on Government to prioritise its urgent approval and implementation ACDP MP Cheryllyn Dudley said “much of the unnecessary human suffering we see all over our nation could be alleviated by the approval and implementation of this policy. We urge government to prioritise it.”
This issue is worthy of being spotlighted. Every letter to the Editor of this and other major media newsrooms by concerned people will bring the time closer when doors are opened to needy people and they are welcomed with “Come in!”