Written by Administrator
Cape Town's gay population will soon have its own shelter offering safe, short-term accommodation for those in crisis. People who have been kicked out of their homes for coming out of the closet, rape survivors or transgendered people not welcome in existing shelters will be accommodated in the six-bedroomed house in Oranjezicht, which has magnificent views of Table Mountain.
The house has been leased for three years to the Pride Shelter Trust for a nominal amount by the City of Cape Town, which started fixing it up last week.
It had been standing empty since the previous tenants, Joy 4 Life, which offered support to people with HIV/Aids, moved out in 2008 and is in dire need of maintenance.
The trust is a non-profit organisation registered as a section 21 company, and was initiated under the auspices of the Cape Town Pride Festival.
Ian McMahon, chairman of the trust, said a lot of youngsters were lured to the bright city lights from small towns and landed up getting into trouble or being picked up by the police in areas such as Beach Road, Sea Point.
He said they had been raising money for the past couple of years for a shelter but got a significant injection of cash from an gay man who died recently and left them just over R800 000.
Trust committee member Glenn de Swardt said the house would not be used as a homeless shelter.
"Otherwise we could be inundated by Cape Town's 'bergies' who might all pitch up claiming to be gay."
He said it would be for people who would not be accepted in some of the faith-based shelters because of their sexuality, or transgender people who were most at risk.
"They can't go to other shelters because they don't know where to put them or which bathroom they should use. Here there will be no prejudice. If you want to prance around in a pink nightie with a big wig it will be your prerogative."
De Swardt said they would also accommodate vulnerable people such as township lesbians who were victims of rape by men who believed they could "cure" them of their sexual orientation.
"Often people have to be taken out of a hostile situation for a period of time."
But he said the house would be used purely for accommodation.
"We won't have any medical nursing care or drug rehabilitation. It is about providing crisis accommodation for a short period such as three weeks."
McMahon said they were considering charging a nominal fee for accommodation. "We will have to cover our basics and also because we need to be sustainable."
He said Cape Town Pride would have an office in the house and the large lounge with wooden floors and high ceilings would be a public space with books and board games which could also be rented out for functions.
De Swardt said he hoped the suburb would support the shelter, which was expected to open by September.
Helen Bamford - iol.co.za (Sunday Argus) - 25 April 2010.