IMG_2190Geraldine Matilda Rhode, 54 years old, is one of the Canterbury Street lot’s more permanent residents. She was born in Salt River, Cape Town, and has been residing on the Canterbury Street lot for over 20 years. She works as an unofficial parking attendant, which gives her enough income to provide for her basic needs. She is a mother of three: two daughters and one son. Her son died two years ago at the age of twenty-nine years. She is also a grandmother of two baby boys and wishes to, one day, be able to own a house where she can cook and take care of her family.

As the third oldest of thirteen children, Geraldine had to take care of her siblings from an early stage until they grew up and moved out of their family’s house. Geraldine’s siblings have offered her a place to sleep in their houses. However, she would have to be able to provide some money to help pay for water and electricity. Even though she lives separated from her family, she dreams to provide her grandchildren with the opportunity to live away from the streets. By improving her own life, she hopes to help her family. Her willingness for change and hope for the future is what brought Geraldine to meet Jesse Laitinen through one of Khulisa’s Social Solutions programs. Geraldine was an important asset to our project because she was very knowledgeable about the street community’s views of the lot’s improvements.

DSC_0120Deon Oosthuizen
grew up in George, a town about 500km west of Cape Town. His family owned a building contracting business. As such, he has trained in various aspects of the building industry. Deon attended the University of Cape Town (UCT) where he earned both a BA Higher Education Degree and a BA Social Degree. Since his time at UCT, Deon has held positions with multiple organizations, as a teacher, construction worker, and social worker. One of these jobs was with the Cape Province Administration as a social worker in the Land and Agriculture department performing assessments and consultations of staff.

After Deon faced some hardships with his marriage, he left his wife and their son and ended up living on the streets. Throughout his time on the streets, he has formed relationships with many people and used his skills as a social worker to allow him to analyze and make connections with a diverse group of people. Recognizing the needs of people on the street, Deon, and others he met on the street, started an NGO called New Horizons. The goal of New Horizons organization is to work with those who are less fortunate to better themselves while maintaining their personal values and beliefs. New Horizons also aids those who manage shelters and other services so they can better serve their clients personal and emotional needs. Although it was hard for him to adjust to a new standard of living, Deon takes pride in working for those who need it most. Deon put his work on New Horizons on hold while he worked with the WPI team and others on the Canterbury Street Lot Project. We greatly benefited from his interpersonal expertise and knowledge of the greater street community.

thumb_IMG_9197_1024Heather Theresa Alexandra
, 50 years old, is one of five sisters and two brothers. Theresa lived with her siblings and parents in Athlone for 27 years, before her house was sold. After this hard point in her life, Theresa moved to Cape Town, where she has been for five years. Since she moved, she has lived in three different shelters and has worked as a security staff member and a newspaper seller. However, she had to move to the streets three months ago after she could no longer pay the shelters’ rent. Now, she lives near Woodstock with a friend and dreams to, one day, have a house in Paarl, west of Cape Town.

Theresa is also very artistic. She grew up in a house that always had music playing, mostly classical and jazz. Her house also had a piano, which she knows how to play. As a member of the community church, Theresa was influenced by her dad to sing in the church’s choir with him from an early age. Today, she keeps singing and particularly enjoys gospel music and Elvis Presley. Besides singing, she also likes writing poems and song lyrics, and dancing. Although she has faced hardships in her life, Theresa is confident that the struggle is for now and remains hopeful that a change for the better will come soon.

DSC_0122Achmat Salie
is one of the longest living residents of the Canterbury Street Lot. He is currently 53 years old and  has been on the lot for 35 years. Originally born in Bo-Kaap in Cape Town, Achmat moved neighborhoods to Athlone. He finished grade school there and began working in a clothing factory as a cutter. Given the opportunity, Achmat began a career as a long distance truck driver. Upon return from a trip, Achmat came home to find his wife with another man. Due to this event, he left home.

Achmat found the Canterbury Street lot after he took a job as a trolley boy at Fruit and Veg, the grocery retailer on the northwest corner of the lot. Achmat was fired for drinking on the job, but did not leave the area since he had grown fond of the lot. He now enjoys living in close proximity to his current role as an informal parking attendant at the Canterbury Street Lot. Achmat gives his life to the lot and enjoys helping street people lift themselves up. For these reasons, he has been a tremendous help to the project. He has given us a firsthand perspective about living on the street and more specifically on the lot. The insight Achmat and the other parking attendants provided about the interaction between themselves and the people parking their cars has been important.