First Grapa AGM hears plans to tackle vagrancy

Gabriel Road Area Project Association volunteers have regular clean-ups and have planted over 70 trees.

Vagrancy topped the agenda at the first annual general meeting of the Gabriel Road Area Project Association (GRAPA), on Thursday January 21.

Plumstead residents and businesses established the association early last year, saying they were fed up with street people pitching tents, invading municipal land, stealing, littering and loitering in the area.

They soon realised there was little they could do about the homeless people who have moved into public open space around the traffic circle at Gabriel and Constantia roads.

While the National Disaster Management Act is in place, law enforcement officers cannot remove homeless people.

The City’s spokesperson for law enforcement, Wayne Dyason says City’s displaced persons unit knows about the homeless at Gabriel and Bardia roads, but no one can be evicted from a formal or informal dwelling under Covid-19 regulations. And law enforcement can’t confiscate any personal items, tents, clothing, bedding.

Wynberg police station spokesperson Captain Silvino Davids says it is not the police’s responsibility to remove people.

Community volunteers have planted trees and succulents and removed many black bags of rubbish.

Grapa was formalised as a registered association and a not-for-profit in August last year. Its goal is to beautify the Gabriel Road area precinct to enable business and the community to thrive.

The AGM was held at The Homestead on Thursday January 21 while members and interested parties joined online.

Chairperson Amy Leibbrandt said the homeless were being sustained by hand-outs. “Refrain from giving them food as this attracts litter and crime. Instead donate to organisations such as the Wynberg Haven Night Shelter of U-Turn.”

The meeting was also attended by councillor Liz Brunette who said she gave her full backing to Grapa and that she worked with various City departments and the police to address all by-law infringements.

Grapa’s business liaison, Elaine Rousseau, said by-law infringements were broken every day, every hour, with loud shouting and screaming, burning rubbish, human waste, illegal dumping and flouting of Covid protocols. About half the businesses in the area had written some 200 complaints to the City, she said.

Ms Leibbrandt said Grapa wanted to lease City land vulnerable to homeless occupation to fence it. Ms Brunette said the administrative process to arrange such a lease could take a couple of years.

Meanwhile, Grapa will continue to host its monthly clean-ups, usually held on Sunday, and to plant trees and succulents. To contact Grapa, call 082 530 1161 or email info@grapa.gov.za