U-Turn aims to open more centres to help homeless

Cape Racing chairman Greg Bortz, left, with U-Turn CEO Jean-Ray Knighton Fitt at the donors’ breakfast held at a Constantia hotel last week.

U-Turn, a non-profit organisation that helps to reintegrate street people into society, aims to establish rehabilitative services at all homeless hot spots on the Cape Flats as well as the City Bowl, Strand, Observatory and Wynberg.

“We will try to put services in those areas to help the homeless,” U-Turn’s CEO, Jean-Ray Knighton Fitt, told about 40 people who attended a donors’ breakfast at a Constantia hotel on Thursday last week.

The organisation already has service centres in Claremont, Muizenberg and Parow, offering homeless people rehabilitation and training, and Mr Knighton Fitt said it wanted to open three more by the middle of the year, but it needed funding.

A service centre provides meals, training, a shower and counselling for the homeless.

“It costs R1 million per year to run a service centre and another R1 million if we want to add a homeless shelter to that centre,” Mr Knighton Fitt said.

He added: “Our statistics today show that for the past three years, not one of the homeless people that went through the U-Turn programme and graduated returned to the streets today.”

He thanked the organisation’s donors, saying it was important to create trust with them.

Cape Racing chairman Greg Bortz, the keynote speaker at the breakfast, praised U-Turn, saying it was focused, innovative and had a strategy.

“The return on investment of U-Turn is getting people that are homeless back into society,” he said.

Mayoral committee member for community services and health Patricia van der Ross said homelessness could not be eradicated easily.

“What I appreciated about U-Turn is that they created partnerships, and the City appreciated their partnership as they are a big role-player when it comes to assisting with homelessness.

“We urge more donors to support them. We appreciate the once-off donors, though we need more long-term support for U-Turn, and if you can change just one person’s life, you are making a difference.”

One such person who has had his life changed is Brandon Manzoni, 48, of Lansdowne. He described how he had lost a career in IT to a drug addiction he had battled for 25 years. After seeking help from The Ark City of Refuge, in Mfuleni, he joined the U-Turn programme 18 months ago.

“This is a fantastic programme because people like you have gone through this programme, and you go on this journey together and see the changes, and just to be part of U-Turn is amazing,” he said.

Mr Manzoni is now part of U-Turn’s work-readiness programme and works in a City Bowl charity shop. He is also doing a computer course at a college in the hope of one day rejoining the IT industry.

Visit homeless.org.za for more information about U-Turn.

Brandon Manzoni, of Lansdowne, is now part of a U-Turn work-readiness programme after battling drug addiction. He is pictured with Ward 58 councillor Katherine Christie, left, and mayoral committee member for community services and health Patricia van der Ross.