Tower of Life women in need of new shelter

Melodie van Brakel and Gert Jonker want to start a project dedicated to homeless women in need. Photo: Alanicka Lotriet.

Tower of Life is a shelter for homeless and destitute people that offers a safe overnight facility, including a warm shower and balanced meal, for up to 80 persons.

Approximately four-and-a-half years ago, Gert Jonker, founder and CEO of The Bethany House Trust, and Melodie van Brakel, founder of the Cradle of Hope established this shelter in effort to offer homeless people safe night-time accommodation.

Melodie van Brakel and Gert Jonker want to start a project dedicated to homeless women in need. Photo: Alanicka Lotriet.

Every afternoon, the homeless and destitute have to apply to stay the night, at a cost of R20. According to Melodie, each person is supposed to leave the building during the day to try and accumulate some daily income.

“We are slightly more lenient on the women, as they are more vulnerable than men. When these women go out into the streets, they are very prone to being assaulted, especially sexually.

Melodie van Brakel and Gert Jonker want to start a project dedicated to homeless women in need. Photo: Alanicka Lotriet.

They are also at risk of being exposed to the world of drugs and sex work,” Gert explained.

However, they quickly came to realise the implications of men and women sleeping under the same roof. Even though bed-sharing is not allowed, it is no effort for a man and woman to do so in the dark of the night, which makes it hard to control.

“Even though the building is secured with guards, one can’t really control these things. We have had incidences where a woman would share a bed with a man, and a few months later, she shares a bed with another man,” Gert said.

“It creates friction in the building and possible further implications. There are also a lot less women than there are men, which makes it hard for women to restore their dignity.”

This is why Melodie and Gert have come to the conclusion that it’s not practical for men and women to be sleeping under the same roof, and they are now looking to establish a similar shelter for women only.

According to Melodie, only between 16 and 20 women apply for shelter every night – far fewer than the men –which makes it easier to move the women.

“We have given them until 14 September to find temporary alternative shelter, and in this time we are calling on the community to help us with a facility. We can’t do this alone,” Gert said.

They explained that the existing shelter requires an amount of R70 000 every month to stay afloat. This includes the building’s water and electricity, rent, gas for the stove, food (for 100 people every day) and basic toiletries. This makes the process of accumulating more money for another facility extremely difficult.

“It’s hard enough to keep the existing shelter open, as it needs a whole lot of maintenance and renovation, let alone to find funds for another facility, and we simply can’t do it without the community’s help. We are grateful for the churches and volunteers’ assistance, but we really are still in need of more help – we are on our knees,” Gert said.

Nevertheless, they still believe these women are in dire need of a dedicated facility of their own. According to Melodie, there will be certain structures and projects in place, which will fall in line with those of the Tower of Life.

“The criteria these people have to comply with at other local shelters are high, and we don’t want to them to end up out on the streets. We’d rather do more to help them more. We aim to treat them with dignity and respect, as we do with all the homeless and destitute at the Tower of Life,” Gert and Melodie explained.

This is why they would like to challenge all local business owners to assist in their cause. They need the following:

• A building (a church building would be ideal)

• Community members who are interested in investing in these homeless women

• Volunteers

• Anyone that can equip these women with additional skills

• Any other additional services

If you can help in any way, feel free to contact Melodie on 082 459 5747.

Do you perhaps have more information pertaining to this story? Email us at [email protected] or phone us on 011 955 1130.

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  AUTHOR
Alanicka Lotriet.

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