It was with great privilege and also sadness that we got to visit a few of our local night shelters these past two weeks.
We always strive to give back to the community and were in the fortunate position to donate over 400 rain jackets to the night shelters in our area.
As we didn’t want to just drop the rain jackets off and leave, we made an effort to establish how many occupants there were in the shelter, when they would be available to see us and also if we could meet some of the house guests.
At any one given time there are roughly 60 – 80 occupants or clients as they are referred to, at a shelter. They can’t take in more people than they have beds for. We decided to divide the amount of rain jackets we had amongst three nearby shelters. We were also able to leave some extras for any newcomers that may join.
Our first visit was to the Kensington Night Shelter on one very cold, stormy and wet Wednesday evening. We were greeted by Keith, one of the supervisors. What an amazing man he is!! He introduced us to the rest of the staff, and then took us through to the dining area to introduce us to the residents. Residents are required to pay a small fee for their accommodation, which also covers food. Keith then took us through the whole of the shelter to show us where the necessities are stored as well as the kitchen and the dormitories. Everything was so organised and well structured. A well-oiled machine to say the least! And the best of all was that there was never a complaint, only an expression of gratitude and blessings. We each humbly received a bunch of roses when we left as a thank you for the donation.
I always thought that the night shelter was just for a one night stay, or a maximum stay of one week. It became obvious that some of these clients stay on for as long as two years. They go out every day to get a day job and then return to the shelter each night. They become one big family and are dependent on the love and support of their fellow house mates. They share their heart sore and their life stories with one another. It is not just a roof over their head and a warm meal; it is so much more…
We then went through to Kraaifontein Night Shelter to drop off more rain jackets… Norma greeted us there, but due to the dreadful weather and the business of dinner and house meetings. We were not able to stay long or meet the residents.
Our last stop was the Bellville Night Shelter, and again, what an eye opener. We met Craig, the supervisor on duty. What a remarkable man! He also took us through the shelter to show us the dormitories and then introduced us to the residents for the night. They were all cheerful and happy to be in a warm environment where they felt a sense of belonging. It was just amazing to see their faces and their appreciation of the plate of food and a warm bed for the evening. Craig then started telling us his life story. He himself was a client of the shelter for two years due to drug abuse and the fact that his family didn’t want anything to do with him. He decided within these two years to change his life because of the warmth and the belonging he felt at the shelter. He slowly but surely started to do admin work, cleaning work, worked in the kitchen and after two years he has proved himself… and become a Supervisor!!!! He has now been transferred to a secondary house in Kuilsriver and now makes a difference to so many people’s lives. He told us that he has eventually found his purpose and place and couldn’t stop talking about how he loves his life!