Living Social Justice

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

Archive for the tag “Street people”

Volunteer Q&A: U-turn

One Common Grounder shares her experience of volunteering at U-turn, a Common Good partner organisation which works alongside people living on the streets.


Full name: Catherine Hannington

Congregation: Rondebosch PM

Occupation: I have just finished studying law and I am taking a gap year to do volunteer work.

Tell us a bit about what you do at U-turn.

U-turn runs a weekly Bible study for women who live on the street.  I meet with a group of about eight women and we have a time of fellowship, worship and teaching.

When do you go and for how long?

The Bible study takes place every Thursday at 11am and runs for about an hour and a half.  I meet with two women who work for U-turn to prepare on a Wednesday.

What drew you towards volunteering in this specific way?

If one looks at Jesus’ ministry on earth He was always found amongst the broken and hurting people.  In Luke 4 v 18 Jesus reads out the scroll of the prophet Isaiah that says, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He anointed me to preach the good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed”.  1 John 2 v 6 says that “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did”.  I really just felt as I read the Bible that if I wanted to draw closer to Jesus, I needed to spend time with the poor.  I really felt that God wanted me to make it a regular part of my life.  I chose to help people living on the street specifically as I drive past them every day and I wanted the opportunity to make a difference in their lives.

Read more…

Three Wishes For A Princess (1 minute)

If you do one thing today, watch this moving clip captured by Richard Bolland from the Common Ground New Hope Street and Shelter Ministry team.

Here’s what this lady, who wishes to remain anonymous, had to say when asked what she would want if she had three wishes…

For more info on how to get involved in the street and shelter ministry, email You can also check out the Common Ground New Hope Facebook page here!

Volunteer Q&A – Street & Shelter Ministry

Samantha, centre, with members of the Street & Shelter Ministry

Full name: Samantha Tobias

Congregation: Rondebosch PM

Occupation: Online Advertising

How long have you been a volunteer at the street and shelter ministry?

Nearly 2 years

When do you go and for how long?

We started off with a street ministry in February 2011. We had a group of four that would go out each Thursday evening with a meal. We would visit various parks and subways and eat, pray and chat with the homeless people living there. After a year of the street ministry and after helping to assist a few homeless friends in to various shelters, we decided to move the ministry to the Wynberg Haven night shelter. We have been doing the shelter ministry there for about 8 months now.

Can you explain what you do while you’re there?

We have a 4 week schedule set up. One week we have a Bible study, the next a worship session, the third week is a tough questions session and then we end off the month with a general knowledge quiz night, where the guys and girls stand a chance to win Checkers shopping vouchers. We usually start off and end with prayer, sometimes breaking off into pairs to pray into one another’s needs and the week ahead.

Can you tell us a bit about the shelter ministry?

The shelter ministry is really about a group of people gathering together to love other people.

The ministry is all about forming friendships and praying for one another. Often we’re there just to listen, sometimes to give advice but mostly to help point them towards the one who can ultimately help and save them.

What are some of the challenges of serving those living on the streets or in shelters?

Many of the people we have connected with are bound by addictions, mental illnesses or backgrounds that have hardened their hearts. I think one of the biggest challenges has been to listen to God’s discernment and wisdom in trying to best love the different people we meet. To have firm boundaries and speak truth into people’s lives, but let it be coated in love and grace.

What do you appreciate the most about volunteering with the ministry?

I appreciate the authenticity of most people we meet. Although many of them have had incredibly tough lives, they love Jesus in such a radical way that you can’t help but be humbled and inspired by their attitudes and authentic love for Christ.

If you’re keen to find out more about the Street & Shelter Ministry, visit their Facebook page here.

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.

Fashion Statement

By Sam Rawson

From Nike to Prada, we live in a society that is obsessed with fashion brands and the prestige and status attached to them. But four university students and an idea is all it took to start a new brand called Suns and Daughters and the beginnings of what could become a counter-cultural movement. We hope! Read more…

During church one cold April evening, 20-year-old UCT medical student and self-proclaimed ‘hoodie’ lover, Sarah Burton, had an idea. What if there was a project that sold hoodies where for every hoodie bought an identical one was also paid for and given to someone in need? This way dozens and possibly hundreds of people across Cape Town could be made to feel loved and respected by simply blessing them with a new item of good quality warm clothing. After all, doesn’t it say in the Gospel that “The man with two tunics should share with him who has none” (Luke 3:11 NIV)?

Sitting around the kitchen table later that evening, she bounced the idea off her close friends and fellow students, Claire Brayshay, Kate Ord and Samantha Beningfield. “As a group we’ve often shared stories of people we’ve met living in extreme poverty and discussed how we should respond as Christ-followers in these situations,” Clare explains. “It’s really been something on our hearts for a while so when I told the girls about my idea they were all super enthusiastic and keen to be involved. That same night we started sending emails to find out who else could help us!”

Within a week they’d launched a Facebook page that grew to over 300 fans in under three days all wanting to support the project in some way. Drawing from their social capital, they soon got on board fellow Common Grounders Nick Mills, a graphic designer, and Shaun Couves, owner of Toit clothing, to help them with the design and production of the hoodies. Six months later and 102 people are now the proud owners of Suns and Daughters hoodies.

Fifty-one of these were given as gifts to people living on the streets, in shelters, and in homes for the previously disadvantaged. Attached to each one was a personalised message from the person who’d bought it with encouraging words and blessings.

“One of the most moving moments for me was when we gave a hoodie to Melissa, a lady I’d developed a friendship with after meeting her begging outside the Rondebosch Pick n Pay with her four-year-old daughter,” says Sarah. “She was really emotional after reading her note and confessed to us that this was the first gift she’d ever received.”

“This whole process has been such a learning experience for all of us,” explains Sam. “We’ve learnt that giving someone something might make you feel better but that it isn’t going to drastically change their circumstances. We hope that the hoodies will become a bridge to create conversations between two people who might otherwise have had nothing in common and be the spark that starts a friendship.”

So what advice do the girls have for those of us wanting to respond but unsure of how or where to start? “Students often don’t have a huge amount to give away but what we do have is the time to be socially proactive,” suggests Sam. “The hoodie project has been a great conversation starter and a way to chat about why we’re doing this and Christ’s heart for the poor.”

The challenge to all of us is clear. Regardless of what season of life we’re in, we can all do something to shine Christ’s love into someone else’s life. It can start by simply noticing the person you walk or drive past every day. By having a conversation. By learning their name. By showing them that they’re loved and valued regardless of what they’re wearing or their present circumstance.

For more info on Suns and Daughters and what they’re up to next, visit their

  Suns and Daughters (Sarah far right) hand over a hoodie to Euphonia at the Liesbeek/N2 robots      Sam (left) with Theresa   at the Campground   /Liesbeek robot

The Suns and Daughters crew with the guys from Beth Uriel after giving them each a hoodie

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