On 23 March 2020, the president of South Africa announced a 21-day national lockdown. It simultaneously mandated the state to create temporary shelters for the homeless and authorised enforcement officers to forcibly evacuate people to them in order to preserve their own and others’ lives. The Somerset West Family shelter was founded on the 6th April as a result of this mandate.
This new shelter offered a safe and catered space to families that were homeless at the time of the announcement. An empty school provided the space and with only a few days to prepare, the shelter opened to 16 families and vulnerable adults. This was and continues to be the first and only family shelter in the Western Cape.
Over the 8 months since the shelter was founded the premises has been renovated and upgraded. It has seen families come and go, babies born, relationships begin and end, new skills found and some habits lost. It has held and continues to hold a collection of real people with real stories and an over-riding sense of true grit and tenacity .