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Who are the occupants of the abandoned Woodstock Hospital?

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By Najma Bibi Noor Mahomed

Cape Town – The abandoned Woodstock Hospital is currently being occupied by some of The City of Cape Town’s homeless. Though some of the occupants were evicted from their homes, there are a number of occupants who were forced to live on the streets prior to the alleged illegal occupation of the building.

While you and I enjoy our warm beds, sipping soup and curling up with a loved one, we are oblivious to the struggle that many people who are forced to live on the streets in the City face.

We have spoken previously about the Woodstock Hospital being occupied by people to get the City to see that there is a way to house residents closer to the CBD. But have you wondered who these people are? Or what are their stories?

When I visited the hospital I expected to find foul smells and filth, as the building has been abandoned for some time. To my surprise, the area that I was led to was neat and organized. The area that is being occupied at the hospital, is currently housed by some individuals who previously lived on the streets of the City.

I met with the Shane van der Mescht, who was one of the first people to stay at the facility. He is now one of the house keepers who ensures the rules are followed and that everyone at the house is taken care of. I was extremely curious as to how he got here.

“I was renting with a friend in Woodstock who faulted on the lease resulting in my unfair eviction leaving me with the only option to live on the street. Few months went by on the street and you start losing hope. The City comes by confiscating things that they don’t allow.

“One day gentlemen from an external committee approached me, asking if I would like to stay in a structure. He came back that afternoon and told me we were going. I left my whole life behind and went. Since then things have been improving in my life,” Mescht said.

After a while I realized that Shane is a man I have seen many times outside the Paarden Eiland traffic lights, with a board that is lit up with some Christmas lights.

“I leave here at around 04h00 in the morning to Paarden Eiland on the main road. I go to the traffic lights to ask for donations purely because no one comes out to help us – we have to go there to help ourselves. So I made use of Christmas lights and attached it to a board so that people would notice me in the early hours of the morning.”

Shane van der Mescht with the board he so often stands with on Paarden Eiland main road. Photo: Ra-ees Moerat

During my time there, I met a few more families, each with a different experience. They were using this facility to be a temporary abode with the hopes of getting on back on their feet soon. But during their time here what do they have access to – Is there clean running water?

Take a listen to the audio below to gain insight into the residents occupying the Woodstock day hospital

Corridors of the Abandoned hospital which is now a safe haven for some of the occupants. Photo: Ra-ees Moerat
Area cleaned up and being used as a kitchen at the abandoned building. Photo: Ra-ees Moerat
Area used by occupants for washing up. Photo: Ra-ees Moerat
Fire hose used for water by the occupants. Photo: Ra-ees Moerat
Area used by residents for hanging washing. Photo: Ra-ees Moerat
Some parts of the abandoned building that has extreme damage. Photo: Ra-ees Moerat
Reclaim the city banner outside the hospital. Photo: Ra-ees Moerat
House rules displayed for the occupants. Photo: Ra-ees Moerat
Ra-ees Moerat chatting to a resident occupying the Woodstock Day hospital.

Nelson Kathana is an individual that stood his ground and displayed a similar occupation in Gauteng. He hs joined the occupation at the Woodstock Day hospital in the aim to receive similar outcome. Take a listen to the full interview here.

Pictured Najma Bibi Noor Mahomed with Nelson Kathana sharing his story

VOC 91.3fm


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