Volunteer at the Rosebank Homeless Shelter, and other causes to support

more than a year ago
The Jacaranda team with staff at the shelter. Photo by Ryan Enslin.

Our #JacarandaInYourPocket2022 experiences this year took place in Rosebank and its surrounds. And while it’s easy to be enchanted by the dappled purple canopies and lilac-strewn streets, we can't will the difficult issues and grim realities for many in our city to disappear.

When walking and cycling these streets, we couldn’t help but feel that we should give back to the neighbourhood that hosted our events. No place seemed better suited than the Rosebank Homeless Shelter to donate the proceeds of our tickets from the walks we hosted, along with a contribution from two of our experience hosts. This year we handed over a R10 000 donation to the Rosebank Homeless Shelter as our way of saying thank you – and on Fri, Nov 18, our Johannesburg in Your Pocket team, joined by a number of walk hosts, went to the shelter to volunteer our assistance.

Tucked between Keyes Art Mile and Rosebank’s high-end hotels and corporate apartments, this low-slung building next door to the Rosebank Police Station is easy to miss. Our team was saved the neck craning and map checking to find it with Eugene, one of the shelter officials, standing outside to greet us. 

As we stepped onto the property, a number of men stood under the art-deco lettering spelling out Immaculata. After a string of greetings, Eugene directed us inside for a tour of the shelter and to tell us a little about what they do there.
A view into the shelter's office. Photo by Ryan Enslin.

Eugene took us into a small office, and after we had gathered around the worn wooden table, he took his place in front of a bookcase. He is quiet and unassuming and flashed the group a quick smile as he pushed up his glasses. A hush fell over us as he began telling us about the shelter, only pausing to answer questions.

The shelter has space for 100 people, with the men’s room sleeping 80 people and the women’s room sleeping 20. In addition to daily meals, the shelter provides clothing, assistance with compiling CVs and finding work, and an onsite social worker. Borders must leave after breakfast unless a skills class is being held, and can return just before dinner. Residents can stay for a year at a time, after which they need to find alternative accommodation with the help of the shelter. To stay there, individuals need to make a R10 donation which is waived when individuals can’t afford to pay this amount. 

While shelters such as the Rosebank Homeless Shelter are doing incredible work to alleviate the dire housing crisis in South Africa, one often wonders if people who stay there can escape their circumstances. Many don’t but with the Rosebank Homeless Shelter’s computer literacy programme and their connections with companies in the area, they are striving to create pathways to employment for residents at the shelter. One of the more recent stories was of a man Eugene taught computer skills to who became a technician at Sasol in Mpumalanga. Cases such as these remind us how shelters are not only a trampoline to catch individuals who fall out of society, but also to relaunch them. A vital net in a society where the gap between those who have and those who have nothing continues to strain the fabric. 
The foldable beds residents at the shelter sleep on. Photo by Ryan Enslin.

The dorms were our last stop before we headed into the kitchen to help with breakfast. The men sleep in a large hall with their beds assembled in blue leather rows. Each morning they fold these back into an armchair, place their belongings on top, eat breakfast and step out for the day. The space, while clean, orderly and sheltering   offers no privacy and the 'beds' are jammed tightly against one another. We struggled to picture ourselves living in such a confined area, not least the inability to take a slower morning if we needed to. The idea of your entire bedroom taking up this small space hit hard. 

We didn’t have much time to dwell on it, with breakfast time drawing near. Into the kitchen we went, to begin dishing up. The foodies in our team marvelled at the immense iron cooking "pots" before rolling up their sleeves and grabbing a ladle. The rest of us ushered plates to the men who had filled up the rows of tables. The hall was filled with long tables, and more than 60 men who come to the shelter daily for one meal of the day.

So began an efficient production line. Before we knew it, the food was served and it was time to sweep, wipe and wash dishes. Incredibly, this process is done by a team of three daily and takes them some three hours to complete. With 10 of us there we finished the job by 10 o’clock. There was a contemplative air as we walked back to our office for the day at Perch in Rosebank, each of us lost in our small gratitudes and reflecting on the morning.
Using some elbow grease to get all of the dishes clean. Photo by Ryan Enslin.

What took less than two hours out of our morning freed up an immense amount of time for the team at the shelter. It’s important not to forget that volunteering or giving does not have to be big to make a difference. The Rosebank Homeless Shelter has several ways you can help.

With many of these organisations, the biggest issue is funding. If you can donate to the Rosebank Homeless Shelter, it helps them pay for daily expenses and expand their training programmes. If you cannot donate money, the shelter also accepts donations of food, toiletries and clothes, with them distributing clothing on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Finally, you can offer your time by volunteering to help serve breakfast or dinner and clean up. It saves the staff plenty of time and energy, which they can then put into finding ways to improve their services and reach. If you would like to help the Rosebank Homeless Shelter contact Michael Ntuli on +27 11 447 9801 or +27 73 321 0968.

The Shelter is located on 17 Sturdee Ave, Rosebank, 2196 in the Sisters of Mercy Immaculata Hall.

Wondering where else you can volunteer in Joburg? Read our list here.


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