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Rosebank Homeless Association helping those in need

Rosebank Homeless Association helping those in need

Based at the Rosebank Catholic Church and run by the Rosebank Homeless Association, the Immaculata Shelter is one of few dedicated shelters for the homeless in Joburg’s northern suburbs. As well as safe shelter, the association provides skills training and help with documentation for the city’s homeless, working to help them get back on their feet with dignity.

Judith Briggs is currently Chair of the Rosebank Homeless Association. In 1988 Judith joined the Johannesburg City Council where her work led her to know more about the city’s homelessness problems, later becoming directly involved with the association and the Rosebank Action Group.

We talked to Judith to find out more about the work of the Rosebank Homeless Association and how the public can support them.

Judith Briggs, Chairperson of the Rosebank Homeless Association

When was the Rosebank Homeless Association launched?

The Rosebank Homeless Association (RHA) was founded in 2002 for the purpose of helping those observed to be in need on the streets of Rosebank when the Rosebank City Improvement District was first established.

Who do you shelter and how does the system work?

The Immaculata Shelter offers overnight shelter to (mainly) men and women in need. No children, and no young men or women under the age of about 28. 

Inside the Immaculata Shelter. Photo by Sandton times

What’s the biggest challenge facing the shelter?

The biggest challenge is probably the need to accommodate more people than the shelter can help, especially in the time of Covid when only half the previous numbers are able to be helped.

What other important interventions does the RHA provide to support the homeless in Rosebank?

The RHA provides money for skills training and to assist with the obtaining of new IDs and other documents often needed by the residents, as well as money to travel home when someone is ready to return home permanently. RHA also collects clothing donated by the public via the collection box in Rosebank Mall for distribution by the shelter.     

Rosebank Homeless Association team and donors. Photo by Naidine Sibanda.

How can the public get involved and support the work of the RHA?

The shelter always needs food, clothing, blankets and bedding, toiletries and so forth.  And of course cash.

How has the Covid-19 pandemic impacted homelessness in Rosebank?

The past two years of the Covid pandemic have made it more difficult for the shelter to operate and to help people. Fewer people can be accommodated and fewer volunteers assist at the shelter. Yet, more people need help as the economy has shrunk and there are fewer employment opportunities.

The Rosebank Catholic Church

Tell us about some of RHA’s current projects

We have the ongoing Zinto Zinhle project, a sewing project where goods are produced, usually by six or seven residents of the shelter. We need to find more markets for their products and would like to get direct orders for the people working there. We have more requests for training than we can support, with more funding, more people could be trained in various fields. Work opportunities are also needed, such as opportunities to work as waiters or as trainees.

What does the RHA have planned for 2022?

We would like to raise more awareness of the needs of the homeless. To raise money to fund training courses and to help place people in employment. We also want to find a place where lockers could be situated where homeless people could keep their documents safe. 

Judith Briggs holds items from the Zinto Zinhle project.

How has RHA’s partnership with the Rosebank Management District been over the years?

RHA has worked with the Rosebank Management district from its inception and has always been assisted both in cash and kind. We have an excellent working relationship which we trust will continue into the future.   

Rosebank Precinct Manager, Lerato Khiba at a meeting at the Immaculata Shelte. Photo by Naidine Sibanda (2019)

What do you think the City of Joburg needs to do to better address the issue of homelessness? 

RHA would like to see the City play a greater role in addressing homelessness in the city. More assistance should be given in the form of grants for training, grants for accommodation purposes and grants for the provision of sustainable housing. Training courses could be offered for those able to take advantage of such opportunities. 

For organisations working with the homeless help is needed with the tariffs charged for utilities. A special rate should be given for homeless shelters to reduce the costs of providing accommodation.

Chairperson of the RHA, Judith Briggs addressing media on social issues in Rosebank

RHA sees tackling the challenges faced by the homeless as a joint responsibility between the City Council, Provincial and National Governments together with the private sector and NGO sector. We need to work together to formulate realistic goals for helping the homeless people of the city.

For donations and support to the Immaculate Shelter, directly contact Michael Ntuli on +27 11 447 9801 or +27 73 321 0968.

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