Imagine living on the streets of the city for more than twenty years, job-hopping between contract jobs, all while having five children to take care of. This was Razaan Lucas’s daily struggle, but she kept her mental focus on persevering through her darkest days even though she was constantly reminded about the uncertainty of her future.

So when Khulisa Social Solutions, a non-profit organisation (NPO), employed her through their Streetscapes urban garden initiative, things finally began to change for her.

Now the 44-year-old is on her way to moving into her own home within the next few weeks, all as a result of her work ethic and constant determination. She works seven days a week and thoroughly enjoys pulling out her invoice book when making vegetable and herb sales at the garden in Roeland Street.

Read more: 12 things we don’t do or say often enough

The Streetscapes initiative has served poor communities over 20 years countrywide. What makes Khulisa's approach special are its partnerships that enable tackling difficult social problems by adopting a systemic approach to breaking the cycle of crime and poverty.

A few years ago Razaan’s job for the EPWP (Expanded Public Works Programme) involved cleaning public toilets at Greenmarket Square and when the contract ended, she visited the Service Dining Rooms for her daily meals. It is there that she met Jesse Laitinen, Manager of Strategic Partnerships at Khulisa and was finally provided with job security.

The pilot project in 2015 had a successful outcome: after six months, 77% of the participants had moved off the streets...

Described as a natural leader within the group, she encourages others to work as hard as she does so that they may reap the rewards of their work someday too. 

"I feel miserable if I don’t have a job,” she said in an interview last year. “And people treat you differently, like you’re worthless, so it’s lekker to work. Now look how far I got. I’m earning [money]”. 

Streetscapes is proudly a Cape Town success story that has been operational since 2015. It demonstrates what can be achieved when the government, the business sector, residents and NGOs work together. 

The pilot project in 2015 had a successful outcome: after six months, 77% of the participants had moved off the streets and 68% had addressed their substance abuse problems.

The first garden site was an unused piece of land on Roeland street's parking lot, next to Fruit and Veg City, but has since been transformed into a beautiful and fruitful gardening space that brings in many sales.

There’s a lot of us that can do good work. Not all street people are bad people.

Ronel Meike is another hardworking employee of Streetscapes who overcame an unspeakable tragedy. Before getting involved in the project, she was trapped in an abusive relationship which ended in permanent cognitive damage. She consequently lost her home and kids and ended up living on the streets. Drugs became her coping mechanism, but since landing her job, she has been rehabilitated and has one of the highest job attendance rates. 

Because of her hard work, Ronel will work in the kitchen as Streetscapes launches its first sandwich business. Additionally, she will help oversee the marketing of the food. She is driven and optimistic for what her future has in store.

Read more: 7 things we can do to help the homeless

Theresa Solomons, 58, is a former employee of the project who slept on various city centre streets for about twelve years. 

“Look at us. The people on the streets are not dangerous. You get the good ones… There’s a lot of us that can do good work. Not all street people are bad people,” she also said in an interview.

Through Thundafund, Streetscapes is crowdfunding to keep growing their initiative. The project has already reached its tipping point which means that it will go forward at its minimum costs, but not all essential costs will be covered. All donations to Streetscapes are tax-deductible and Khulisa issues SARS 18A certificates.

They need help to bring this third garden to life. Before the garden and gardeners can flourish, R200,000 is required to establish the area. The cost breakdown is as follows:

R 65,675 - Fence (150m, 1.8m height)
R 34,500 - Compost (100 metric cubes)
R 5,500 - Seedlings (5000 plants)
R 1,100 - Eco pellets (10 bags)
R 750 - Cow Manure (50 bags)
R 20,450 - Garden shed (3mx3m), Benches, Sorting Tables
R 7.500 - Pipes, Flow tees/elbows, Druppers for Irrigation system
R 5,460 - Spades/Wheelbarrows/Watering cans/Forks/Spades
R 50,115 - Labour (10 homeless people over 2.5 months)
R 5,000 - Painter and paint
R 3,950 - Marketing materials, signage

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Images: Supplied