Home on tenterhooks…

Central to Tenterden Place of Public Safety is a historic home that was declared a national monument in 1989.

Behind an electric fence on a sprawling site on Wellington Road, the ramshackle Tenterden often goes unnoticed by those who live in and around it.

Tenterden is a place of safety providing a temporary home for up to 36 of the Cape’s most vulnerable boys and girls between the ages of six and 13. Run by the Western Cape Government, children call Tenterden home while the state determines where might be the next suitable place for them to go. But not for much longer.

At the weekend rumours ran wild that the facility would be changed to that of caring for people with drug and substance abuse – and that it would bring an increased criminal element to the area which often comes with addictive personalities trying to obtain money, drug peddlers, loitering and affect property prices.

But according to Sihle Ngobese, spokesperson for Social Development MEC Albert Fritz, this is scaremongering and someone is stoking trouble.

Ward 62 councillor Liz Brunette reported to the Wynberg Residents’ and Ratepayers’ Association (WRRA) that Mr Fritz had advised that the facility, in its current form, will be closing as it is not economically viable.

“The children are all in foster care, which the Province believes is desirable as they will be in a family environment. The future use of Tenterden has not been decided and there is no intention to use it for adults with substance abuse problems.

“Province will communicate with the community before a decision regarding the use of the property is taken,” she said.

Badisa Wynberg, a social services programme that facilitates the placing of neglected or abused children into the safety of foster care or child and youth care centres (previously known as children’s homes) said there is always a need for this type of facility.

Badisa Wynberg handled 23 977 cases last year, made up of 657 abuse, 511 sexual abuse, 2 235 of neglect, 493 abandoned, 171 street children and 422 orphans.

Gareth Hardres-Williams, who started a veggie garden involving children at Tenterden (“Project takes ‘root’,” Bulletin, May 7, 2015) heard about the facility’s closing at a certificate handover ceremony on Tuesday June 28.

He heard that future plans are uncertain and that children are being moved to other facilities. He was told the home will not be used for people with substance abuse. “As a community member and volunteer I’m disappointed not to be included in the decision making process,” said Mr Hardres-Williams. “I hope the new tenant will take up the garden project. It’s been a great win for the children but I don’t know how it would translate for adults,” he said.

Lorraine Finkelstein is one of the volunteers from the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Claremont who has been visiting the children of Tenterden each month for about four years.

“I’m sure there’s demand for places of safety for children and Tenterden could easily be filled if the powers that be investigated, but if this is the decision then there’s nothing that can be done.”

Ms Finkelstein said on Sunday June 25 they were notified that it would be their last visit as the home was changing clients. “We were told that all the children were to be sent to other permanent homes, foster care or back to their own families and the plan is that is to be used for adults with substance abuse problems,” she said.

She said it was a great shock to everyone as they have developed a rapport with these children. “One of the volunteers asked a child whether they’d prefer to be at home or at Tenterden and the child said here.”

Ms Finkelstein grew up in Wynberg about 55 years ago and said Tenterden has always been a home of safety for children. “My concern is for the children, who will have to be uprooted to a new environment or back into the poor social conditions from where they were removed,” she said.

Tim Jackson, treasurer of the Old Wynberg Village Society said they understand that the place is closing down due to it being under utilised but do not know what its future will be.

Kristina Davidson chairperson of WRRA said she would not want to comment until they had more information about what was happening at Tenterden.

Mr Ngobese said plans for the property were as yet undecided, but included a proposal to use it for people with disabilities “as there’s a pressing need for places such as this”.

The property was originally part of the Vredenhof Estate which had been allocated to William Hawkins on 8 April 1856. The U-plan dwelling was originally built in a Cape Dutch idiom but it subsequently acquired a number of Victorian decorative elements. It was declared a National Monument on 17 March 1989.