For the past 25 years Project Gateway has run the Sunset Overnight Shelter for homeless people in the city of Pietermaritzburg. It started in the early 1990s, housing the homeless in the entrance tunnel of The Old Prison from where Project Gateway has been operating since 1991. During these years more than 215,000 meals have been provided for the homeless in the city and Project Gateway has offered a safe, secure environment for them to stay in at night.
In the mid 1990s two shipping containers were obtained, and were converted into sleeping accommodation. These have been placed beside the wall of The Old Prison for a number of years.
In 2012 the local Municipality Health Department inspected the Project Gateway site, and following lengthy discussions with them, it was agreed that the current conditions and facilities at the Overnight Shelter are no longer suitable for human habitation, and that the facility is regularly overcrowded. Project Gateway has worked with a local organisation, B.E.S.G. (Built Environment Support Group) to apply for funding from the local government Department of Human Settlements to build a permanent residential shelter which would meet the current requirements for the accommodation of homeless people. B.E.S.G. has now drawn up plans for the proposed new shelter. An e-mail received from Cameron Brisbane (CEO of BESG) dated 25th May 2016 states,
“We are applying for funding under an approved KZN Provincial government housing subsidy programme for vulnerable groups that has been operating for over 15 years."
The purpose for the “preparation” funding is to take the risk out of an expensive capital works project. That does not mean there is no risk of the project facing challenges. The Old Prison is a National Monument, hence we have built into the “prep” costs taking the plans to a level of detail where they can be submitted to the AMAFA Heritage Council for approval. There is also a risk that the National Department of Human Settlements may not approve the full cost of constructing what AMAFA approves, and there will have to be some negotiation around reducing the specifications. The Dept of Human Settlements insists on a geotech study as a standard risk mitigation measure before they will approve construction funding, even though common sense tells you that prison walls with a load bearing 10x or more than we will require implies there is no risk of foundation failure.
If Project Gateway can raise the preparation funding, it will take up to two years off the development timeframe, which is a critical factor when the local municipality has condemned the current facility but taken no enforcement action while Project Gateway can show intent to redevelop the shelter”.
Project Gateway would also require funding for the furnishings and kitchen equipment which will be required for the shelter. The current need is for accommodation for approximately 40 people but there is enough space at the site to build a 60 bed facility. The city would in time benefit from a facility such as this.
The Local Municipality has now incorporated the redevelopment of the Shelter into its annual IDT (Integrated Development Plan). However we now wait for the Provincial Department of Human Settlements to approve the architect and quantity surveyor so that they can complete their part and then we pray that Human Settlements will release the first phase of funding so the building process can start.
However, we have now discovered that since the shelter was set up, the law has tightened up, and homeless shelters are no longer permissible in close proximity to schools, so Project Gateway will have to find a new location for the new shelter.
If you would like to make a contribution towards the rebuilding of our homeless shelter, please click here