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A soup kitchen and shelter in Cape Town's CBD offers comfort to those on the street.

19 Sep 2016

It's easy to get caught up in a world of fancy restaurants and food cooked by award-winning chefs, but the stark reality is that in South Africa very few people have access even the basics like bread and butter. Which is why soup kitchens for the homeless and destitute and the people who run them, are a Godsend to those with only the clothes on their back.

Food24 visited a local shelter in Cape Town called Youth Solutions Africa that was started by Capetonian, Pastor John Philmon. Pastor Philmon began helping homeless individuals back in 1998. He began on the streets of Cape Town engaging with them and helping to correct anti-social behaviour. At this time he also had started a simple soup kitchen. This all progressed into a fully-fledged non-profit and public benefit organisation known as Youth Solutions Africa, which was registered in 2006.

READ: Always wanted to help? Here's how to get started

In addition to the soup kitchen, they also run an after-school feeding project at a small kindergarten in the Philippi township where the Youth Solutions Africa team serve lunch to hungry tummies once a week. We had the opportunity to visit the children at the kindergarten on a Monday afternoon while they were receiving their lunch. Click here to find out how you can become a volunteer.

The Soup kitchen

Food24 visited the soup kitchen on Thursday morning where a crowd of what seemed like regular visitors enjoyed a movie, before being served a meal of vegetable stew, rice and a fresh bread roll. J.P, head of the soup kitchen and who previously lived on the streets himself, explained that one movie will be shown, and then everyone will disperse until the next day.

J.P’s experience has driven him to help others, and his genuineness is evident in his approach. ‘I love that it’s so peaceful here’ he explained; and he’s right – there is a mutual respect and friendliness between those providing the food, and those receiving it.

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The Salt River hub doesn’t offer any bed space but facilitates social work and guidance for people living on the streets. The idea is to equip individuals to deal with their current situation and effectively encourage them to better their circumstances. They do this through training programs like panel beating, spray paint training, glass making and there is a computer centre developing which is still at its infancy.

One of the most exceptional things about the whole organisation is that the people running it were all previously from the streets, and they worked their way up within Youth Solutions, helping others like them. ‘The whole program is a motivational program’ explained John, ‘you have to move forward, you cannot stagnate in the shelter or in the soup kitchen’. And this is why the training programs are so essential.

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The Shelter

The shelter was a natural progression for John. Of course the main objective has always been to get the people he helps, off the streets, and looking after themselves financially. Prior to 2006, John managed to get 8 individuals homed in a shelter space he shared with another orgnisation in Salt River. This figure of 8 grew, and Youth Solutions later appealed to the City of Cape Town for a bigger and more permanent housing facility. They then got given a space under the bridge in Zonnebloem, which is now their main hub housing 75 people.

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Food24 was taken around the shelter which was very neat and welcoming. Almost all the residents were out working, and when they are earning some money, they are required to contribute towards the shelter in the form of a small rent fee. This is used to cover basic costs and also creates a good habit for the people that aren’t familiar with paying rent.

Once people are in the shelter, they are asked to no longer beg, another step in moving forward.

With the help of donations and a film company who built a dining area and gave them much wooden wall parts, they have transformed the once grimy pigeon dwelling area, into a functional and comfortable living space. This living space acts as a vessel for most giving them a bump forward in life.

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The soup kitchen - based in their Salt River premises is held on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday at 10:30am and Tuesdays and Fridays at 12:30.

How can you help?

Youth Solutions survive solely on donations without any government funding. These can be anything from books to shoes to food or monetary contributions. At the moment the computer room is a little scarce so they really need some help in this department in order to have a fully functioning IT training centre - we all know how important IT skills are now a days in the working environment.

There is much opportunity for volunteering at Youth Solutions: soup kitchen work, working with children after school and helping with homework, help with fundraising events, feeding children in Philippi after school or assist with training.

If you're interested in volunteering, find a campaign you would like to help at Volunteers24.

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