Living Social Justice

A blog about responding to poverty and injustice, everyday and in all sorts of ways

Archive for the tag “Shelter”

August Photo of the Month

By Richard Bolland

This photo is of myself (centre) sitting with two close friends. We come from three very different backgrounds. I come from a middle class white suburban background. Ash (on the left) comes from a hard life growing up in Durban and living in the shelters of Cape Town. Mashudu (on the right) grew up in the Northern Cape, had to brave the streets of Cape Town when he lost his job but now lives in an informal settlement in Langa. We decided to set the photo up like this to show that walls can be broken down, cultures can merge, race can be overlooked. We all enjoy the simple pleasures of life. So that’s what we’re doing. Watching television together as sons of one Father.

Until a couple of years ago, I’d often find myself getting back from a hard days work in the film industry, relaxing on my six-seater couch – paid for with my hard earned money – and enjoying some of Woolworth’s finest. There’s me on the couch flicking on the news. Watching how a group of shacks has burned down. Watching how our education system is getting caught up in corruption. The figures for gang violence in Manenberg come on the screen. As my heart hardens, I change the channel onto Supersport Blitz. I’d much rather just watch the late night football. But wait. Somethings not right. How have I become so numb to this? What do I have to do? The problem is too big. How could I possibly make a change? Something tells me that changing my Facebook status isn’t going to change much. Maybe I should do this Live Under the Line Challenge? Why not cook a meal for the guys living in the train subway, I think to myself. Maybe assist some of them into a shelter? What about finding out if there’s a place they can finish their matric? It seems like its gonna be difficult. Maybe I should just watch a movie.

Living in South Africa and constantly seeing the pain and suffering has often brought a tear to my eye. But when you start to cry your 500th tear it seems way easier to just harden up and ignore what goes on all around us. It became apparent to me that we are called to sow our tears, in other words, to take that grieving and do something about it. So two years ago I decided to find some similar minded people and work out what we could do. Fast forward two years and my world has been changed completely.

Going to the Haven Night shelter every week gives us middle-class, suburban-bound volunteers an insight into how 13 million people live in South Africa every day. It shows us how an 18-year-old rainbow nation still holds such struggles and pains. We go there every week not out of guilt but rather out of hope. Hope that there is a chance we can make a difference. We have seen people come off the streets. Complete rehab. Find a job. Work their way from a first phase shelter into a second phase shelter. Relapse. Redo rehab. Go back to school. Buy a home. We’ve seen all of this in the last two years we’ve been going there. I’m glad I didn’t just flick the channel and watch that movie all those years ago.

– Richard , 24, is a motion graphics artist and is a member of the Common Ground Wynberg congregation. To find out more about the street and shelter ministry he’s a part of, visit their Facebook page here.

Street and Shelter: Raising the Roof

The worship and prayer meeting at the Wynberg Haven Night Shelter

By Jake Waldron

Once a week a group of us head down to the Wynberg Haven Night Shelter for an hour to hang out with the people there and teach them about Jesus. In our weeks there we’ve made friends with many of the guys and shared in their struggles.

We rotate between Bible study, tough questions, worship, and a quiz night each week, so that we have something prepared. A few weeks ago we brought our guitars for our customary, once-every-four- weeks, worship/prayer session. I always look forward to these weeks, but I’m biased because I get to play guitar and sing.

Jake heading up worship on his guitar

We arrived at the shelter at 6:30 and walked into the communal hall, greeting all the familiar faces and finding out how their weeks had been. After we’d sufficiently greeted everyone, we set up the chairs in a circle and all sat down to enjoy some time with Jesus. We started playing through the songs we had prepared, and as the numbers grew, so did the noise factor.

Eventually, by the third song, people were singing at the top of their lungs, stamping their feet and slapping their chairs in time to the music. I looked around me and saw the joy on everybody’s faces as they were singing their hearts out. It was truly a moment so full of the Holy Spirit, and I felt like Jesus was there singing, stamping, and slapping chairs as well. Eventually, the manager of the shelter has to ask us to start winding down because we had been going for an hour and a half.

One of the following weeks we went back for a Bible study. After the session one of the guys, Mustafa, told us that he wanted to give his life to Jesus. Sam and I prayed for him and you could just see the love that Jesus had for this man.

We are all so honoured to be a part of what God is doing in these people’s lives, and we are so grateful that He’s trusted us with showing them the love that He has for them. It is amazing to see God working in everyone who’s been a part of this, volunteers and shelter residents alike. We are so excited to see Him do more.

– Jake is a video editor and is a member of the Common Ground Rondebosch PM congregation

Do you have a heart for people living on the streets or in a shelter? The Street and Shelter Ministry is a great way to meet people from various walks of life and serve in a team of like-minded (and -hearted!) people. Email to find out more. 

A heart for the homeless

Richard Bolland gives us an update on the Street and Shelter ministry!

Solomon, Marquez and Mashudu at their baptism last year

Over the past year, the Street and Shelter Ministry has experienced an amazing journey filled with both heartache and extreme joy. One of our closest friends, Graham, passed away while living on the streets; we temporarily withdrew our ministry from Kensington Night Shelter and the streets of Mowbray; we journeyed with our friend Mashudu through a retrenchment and then rejoiced with him when he found new employment; and we developed a growing relationship with Wynberg Night Shelter.

Read more…

Who are ‘the poor’?

– A message from the Common Ground Street and Shelter ministry team

Often Jesus would spend time with the poor. In the Gospel, He also stressed great importance on giving to the poor and loving the poor.  We, as the Common Ground Street and Shelter ministry team, have come across many problems in trying to give freely and generously to the poor and destitute. Our prayer has been for the Lord to give us discernment in the way we love the poor and the way in which we give generously.

Most South Africans have a general view of the poor as being people that are unemployed and unable to get a job. Although many people living in poverty are unemployed, there are many different reasons for unemployment and loss of dignity in each case.

Read more…

Moving on up

By Sam Rawson

In September, nine members of the Common Ground Street and Shelter Ministry graduated from NETwork’s job readiness programme. Wow! Here’s more. 

For thousands of people living on the streets of Cape Town or in a shelter, hope doesn’t lie in a hand out or in small change but in the opportunity to work for a living. Having a job not only provides an income but it restores a person’s dignity and allows them the opportunity to live a life of productivity and fullness.

Sadly, the longer someone has had to survive on the streets the harder it becomes for them to find employment. Without a cell phone, clean clothes and a permanent address finding a job in a city with an unemployment rate of 17% is, well, difficult to say the least.

The Common Ground Street and Shelter Ministry exists not only to build friendships and disciple people towards Jesus, but also to help them find permanent accommodation, regular employment and lead a healthier lifestyle. After all, Jesus came so that we may all experience “life to the full” (John 10:10).

Thankfully, there are organisations like NETwork committed to helping people along the process to a full and abundant life in Christ. Last month, nine members of the Common Ground Street and Shelter ministry graduated from NETwork’s job readiness programme. A huge accomplishment!

The goal of the programme is to develop characteristics sought after by employers and to increase the self-confidence of the participants in venturing into the job market.

“The course really gave them all so much more focus and confidence,” says Richard Bolland, the Common Ground Street and Shelter Ministry leader. “Most of them have tried almost every avenue to get a job but the programme helped restore their dignity and give them hope.  Having NETwork vouch for them is a huge asset to have in such a competitive job market where thousands sometimes apply for one entry level position.”

Meet some of the NETwork graduates:

Mashudu, 28, is originally from Limpopo and has been a part of the ministry for the past five months. He recently went for an interview for a security guard position and is waiting to hear back from the company.

Above: Mashudu, Ekrosi, Richard, Onke and Marcus

Marcus, 26, is from Zimbabwe and is currently looking for a job as a waiter. He hopes to use his future earnings to enrol in a graphic design course.

Felix, 22, is an orphan from Gugulethu who was raised by an aunt. The team is currently trying to get him into an adult education programme so that he can complete his matric.

And that’s not all that’s happening in the Common Ground Street and Shelter Ministry:

Ekrosi (above),  25, has just qualified as a fork lift operator and is now looking for a job in this field.

Maureen (above) is in her late 40s and has been on the streets for over 15 years. She recently came top of her Blue Sticker domestic worker training class. Well done, Maureen! She’s currently looking for a position as a domestic worker.

As a community, we really want to support people like Mashudu, Ekrosi, Marcus and Maureen in their search for employment – and there are loads more stories like theirs. If you know of any openings specifically for entry level jobs, please email

About the Common Ground Street and Shelter Ministry

For those of you haven’t already heard, the Common Ground Street and Shelter Ministry is a dedicated team of Common Grounders led by Richard Bolland who meet twice a week to build relationships with and disciple people living on the streets or in shelters.

The ministry started last year (read more about that story here) and now meets on a Tuesday at the Kensington Haven Night Shelter (from 18h30 to 20h00) and on a Thursday in the Mowbray area (from 17h30 to 19h30).

The venue may change frequently – they’ve met at a railway station, in a subway, on the steps of a post office and in crowded shelters – but the heart behind the ministry has remained the same.

“We’re so aware that only Jesus can transform the hearts and lives of people,” says Richard. “Our hope is that through friendship we’ll be able to disciple people towards Jesus and help them along the path towards employment, permanent shelter and self-sustainability. But it takes a transformed heart to bear fruit.”

If you’d like to learn more about the Common Ground Street and Shelter Ministry, like their Facebook page here.

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