Department of Social Development must save drug shelter from closure

y Bridget Masango – DA Gauteng Team One Spokesperson on Social Care and Cohesion; Gauteng’s Forgotten Communities

A non-profit organisation (NPO) for young people whose lives are destroyed by drugs, the Greater Lights shelter, once hailed as the first of its kind in Pretoria West, is being forced to shut its doors after operating for just four years.

Yesterday, management from the shelter appeared in the Gauteng North High Court to plead for more time to find alternative accommodation after the court ordered their eviction from its rented premises for failing to pay rent.

I will invite the MEC of Social Development in Gauteng, Nandi Mayathula-Khoza, to come and visit the shelter, to hear their plight and assist in keeping their doors open.

The shelter operates from a rented house in Buitekant Street and offers 12-week programmes for 27 recovering drug addicts at a time, and has treated more than 100 young people since 2014. Where will these young people go if the centre is closed?

Along with drug treatment services, Greater Lights provides medical therapy, psychosocial support, peer and spiritual counselling and interacts with drug users in Pretoria West, Daspoort, Hercules and Marabastad. Its services are offered in collaboration with the University of Pretoria and the City of Tshwane, under the Community Oriented Substance Use programme (COSUP).

Although the shelter is registered as an NPO, it does not receive funding from the Department of Social Development and has been unable to pay rent for the past eight months, at R12 000 per month.

As a result of the imminent closure of the shelter, its residents who need specialised help, will be left with an uncertain future.

Most of the teenage residents were found on the streets or referred to the shelter by desperate families. If the shelter closes down, it will leave these vulnerable young people with nowhere to go.

The Democratic Alliance is calling for the Department of Social Development to provide funding for the shelter to allow it to continue its good work.