Restore Family Project
My family and I came to live and work in this building in 2016. The then Landlord was renting the property from Salvation Army who are the owners. This property was left to Salvation Army in a will, providing that it be used for Salvation Army Officers as a home. I read this in a High Court document, in 2018.
I am informed that Salvation Army vacated this building in about 2009 due to financial constraints. Individuals who worked here have told me that the local Lottery (Lotto) offered financial assistance but they refused it.
However, this building was involved in a huge scandal while Salvation Army still occupied the property. A caregiver was abusing the elderly and this was apparently secretly filmed and handed to Carte Blanche, a local TV program. I am told that this video was posted on the internet but I have not seen it. In an attempt to distance themselves they apparently reported that the caregiver was not a Salvation Army member, but an employee. They were also not aware of the abuse that had been going on for some time.
Since vacating the building, they have rented it out to several individuals who seem to have used it as an old age home and abused the finances, then abandoned the occupants.
Within days of my family moving into the building to live and work here, all occupants were informed by the Security Manager of a private security company, contracted to look after this Salvation Army property, that they should not pay rentals to the landlord, since he had not paid Salvation Army (for many months as it turns out!).
He further informed occupants that they were to vacate the premises by the 31 st of December 2016. He served a notice on the person in charge, asking for all the names of occupants since he wanted to serve them. She refused to give this information since Salvation Army had a list of all persons on the property, asking him to leave her office. He was quite persistent and I explained that he should leave and ask whoever had sent him for the names. He then obliged.
This took place on the 28/29 November 2016. Needless to say the occupants were in quite a state. These included pensioners and low-income families who were either working for, or renting from the landlord. It then became clear that the person in charge was attempting to take over from the landlord and open the building to house more low-income families. I was told that the landlord for whom she worked had vacated the building to other premises with all the 'Frail-Care' patients. Salvation Army had told him to leave the premises because he had not paid rental to them for months!
Occupants were in a state of shock and unsure what to do. Most elected to not pay rentals and their monies were returned. Those who elected to continue paying would still receive meals and care with a promise to be moved to other premises. Some occupants who worked for the landlord at the other premises continued to work for a while, but they eventually stopped as they did not receive their salaries or only a part thereof.
So here we had a building, which still had occupants with either very little income or none at all, in a state of panic and shock, just before Christmas! My family (husband and son) included. Incomes were either disability or retirement pension fund. We had no income at all and neither did other families with school going children. The person in charge removed the paying occupants to other premises and promises to fight for us.
I then approached Organization of Civil Rights, once I discovered that nothing had been done, requesting their assistance. They immediately contacted the Salvation Army attorneys who were listed on the 'served' document, asking them to come forward and so that we could discuss and find a way forward, to which they apparently responded by asking for the names of the occupants the Organization of Civil Rights was representing. Despite efforts from many persons, Salvation Army did not respond.
The Security Manager continued to visit the site to check on his security staff and upset the occupants. He asked them to write letters to Salvation Army giving their details and circumstances, and he would forward these, but we had been warned not to give our details. He would state that he was trying to help but always managed to tell the occupants a horror story about how they could be evicted within 24hours and that trucks would come and take all their belongings and dump them!
Some occupants began self-medicating and drinking excessively. Needless to say we had several old people fitting, falling and injured. A lot of fighting and division went on because everyone was trying to survive and living in fear of being put on the streets.
The security manager continued to intimidate occupants even threatening some with a court order that he would personally get, to throw them on the street, as though the property belonged to him!
He even called the police and attempted to throw out a young lady who went up-country to see relatives, by saying she did not live here when she returned.
I wrote a letter to the police and courts and we had to get affidavits to show that he was only harassing her. She was in fact one of the first occupants and a caregiver who had now lost her job and had nowhere else to go! I had to threaten the security manager with a restraining order, which the South African Police advised me to take further.
He even switched off the electricity and wanted to lock the DB boxes so we could not switch it on again. This is illegal and the SA Police informed me that as occupants we had every right to switch it back on.
He became really nasty when we made front page news in the local papers, which mentioned that he had 'served' the occupants with illegal documents. He cannot serve since he is not an officer of the court. He then refused any visitors entry to the property with their vehicles, stating that it was a security measure! This has been a real problem. At one stage we had several organizations or churches who came to drop off food for the occupants, but this stopped because they could not gain entry and would not leave their vehicles on the street. There is nowhere to park outside while this 4 story building premises has a large parking area.
When the regional newspaper approached Salvation Army about what was taking place at this building, they stated that they had sold the building some years ago and that the event was sad but that there was nothing they could do once people were served by the court. This was in 2017 and no-one had been served by the court. The local papers checked and found the property was registered to Salvation Army at the Registrar of Deeds.
I could go on for a long time telling this story as it has many incidents and events to it. To cut a long story short and to get to the point. Most of the elderly were eventually housed in retirement places, but there are no low-income family homes in this area. Salvation Army served notice to proceed with an eviction on the remaining occupants in 2018. The municipality could not help us since there are many who need homes and no where to house them. The Organization of Civil Rights withdrew and could not represent us for lack of funds and the fact that none of us had contracts with Salvation Army as tenants, was an issue. They had been open about this from the beginning. We had to attend the High Court on 5 occasions and the case was postponed each time when Salvation Army advocates requested an eviction order for all or at least those occupants who were not present. The judges insisted on a report from the municipality. Most occupants were afraid to attend court and it was left to myself and another occupant who has now passed away.
We were eventually advised by the judge to put in our affidavits, which we did. Due to this, in August of 2018 the case was postponed without a date and the then advocate withdrew from the case. (There had been 2 other advocates). This one had tried to get Salvation Army to move us to the cottages on the premises while they renovate the building to sell, as stated in their court documents. They were apparently annoyed and insisted we must be evicted. The advocate stated that he wanted nothing more to do with this case and the Judge said, '' It's a sad day when Salvation Army are trying to throw people out on the streets!''
All other occupants have now left the building because of stress, fear and intimidation. Some are displaced and others have managed to find safe haven with family and some work. I have heard of one person having their child removed by welfare because they were sleeping on the streets for a time. I have come across some of the elderly who are not as comfortable and happy as many assume, but had no choice in the matter. Others are still out there often begging for food and any kind of help.
Despite many requests from various parties, we did not hear from Salvation Army, except on one occasion where they sent a member to collect the personal details of occupants who were still living here. Since they already had our information which appeared on all the notices that kept coming from the Security manager, we complied, but when we began to ask questions, their representative left the building in a hurry, stating that no decisions had been made.
One such notice that was handed to us in 2017 stated that they were willing to transport occupants to one of their shelters up-country, to another province, where they could stay for a period of 3 months and then they would have to leave. This offer was only for single persons who were not allowed to take their furniture, only personal items. Neither were children or pets allowed. This was used to state that they made an offer of accommodation to the occupants. I did set this straight in my affidavit, stating that the 2 single men who were eligible for this both had their own furniture and part-time employment which was not enough for accommodation, but it put food on the table. Why would they leave and go somewhere they knew no-one and had no employment at all!
My family are the only occupants remaining in this building, since the other occupant recently passed away. We have only managed to find part-time work on occasion. My husband has worked as a gardener, painter and a car guard, but these were only for a limited time.
I have managed to pick up some freelance work online here and there, which has sometimes saved us from starving. I am almost 59 years old and can only apply for a pension at 60. We have no other income. There are no Food Banks to visit or Government Assistance Grants to access.
My husband walks to churches in the area to collect food parcels. Some are once a month while others give something weekly. None of these give enough food to sustain us. There are no fresh vegetables or meat. Mostly 2 or 3 tins of beans or fish. Sometimes tinned/canned beef or vegetables. Usually we have rice or mielie meal, but sometimes we have nothing and have had to ask others for help. We have a Refrigerator which was given to us, but it is empty most of the time.
My son spends his days on a computer which was donated to him. He was unable to continue home-schooling because of a lack of funds. He has however, composed many ballads on computer software and learned much about music production, which he certainly seems to have a natural talent for. He would like to pursue music production as a career and perhaps even study towards a qualification. I have not been able to provide him with a piano keyboard yet, which he dearly wants. He has no qualifications for a job, which are very difficult to find in South Africa. I think our unemployment rate is the highest in the world now and so many school leavers cannot find work. I feel that I owe him an education with which he can become an entrepreneur.
My husband and I are both very creative people who can sew and make many craft type items. He makes something out of nothing. Having the premises gates locked to visitors has severely restricted us from earning a living this way, as people do not want to do business on the street and think there is something shady going on when they cannot gain access. Those who have managed to come into the premises have complained that they were chased away by a very rude man, who gets into his vehicle and drives here from his office, when his security staff have informed him via their radio.
On Friday 10 th May 2019 we were visited by 4 members of the Salvation Army who wanted to know how we were and stated that the building was not fit to live in. They informed us that they were willing to find us accommodation in the area and pay the rental for 3 months, thereafter we would be on our own. I stated that we had no income and 3 months was a very short period of time to build up business, which had been severely restricted from doing on these premises. I also asked them who would pay for moving us to this rental premises and they said funds were limited and one step at a time. I did not agree to anything. I mentioned that there website stated they assisted the homeless NOW and ongoing. My words to them were, ''Let's see what you come up with.'' They seemed really surprised that we had furniture at all! While we were conversing one of their members did refer to the Eviction matter which was still open to pursue but that they did not want to, since it was ugly. This was mentioned several times! They left to look at local places because they realized that people did not want to leave the areas where they were, and would come back to us before the end of the day, since they were returning back to their province. They did not come back.
It was after this incident that I once again realized how this kind of situation affects one mentally. It was only a while later that I recognized how physically paralyzed I felt. I had lost all my energy and motivation and felt numb. I am normally very energetic, motivated and full of ideas. This was not the first time I had experienced this and recognized that I was suffering from what is most likely PTSD. I felt quite sick on Saturday and still numb. I was cold and uncomfortable. It is amazing how you can only focus on the event, when you are feeling this way!
Attempting to live normally, always having the thought of eviction in the back of your mind, is a difficult thing to do.
Being a Christian I went before the Lord to release the trauma and trigger of this situation and asked for healing. It is only today, Sunday, that I have again begun to feel normal. My son and husband both tend to withdraw and leave it to me. I can see they are suffering their own kind of trauma from the past events and our current situation. One does not come out unscathed.
The more I consider the offer made by Salvation Army, I have to wonder who in their right mind would be prepared to rent to individuals without income or employment? This offer seems quite bizarre coming from them, and shows how intent they are in getting rid of us. In fact, the courts seem more empathetic because they consider all our circumstances and are intent on not putting people out, without them having a safe place to live. Rental for 3 months is not a safe haven for anyone without an income. I can think of several better ways of assisting us.
They also mentioned the electric bill which apparently was hundreds of thousands, but that is not our fault. They knew the guy was not paying but said and did nothing. I am so tired of everyone behaving as though this situation was the fault of the occupants!
I did mention that I had written to Salvation Army General in the UK about this situation. I requested that the gates be opened for my visitors and I offered to do fund-raising to help renovate the premises. I also stated that we could begin with renting out rooms that needed only minor repairs. I did not tell the representatives this. However, I have not heard from the UK General and was informed that he would only forward my letters to South Africa.
Although my husband and I live at the same premises, we are separated now. We only share resources for survival. My son and husband don't talk at all. The situation we have found ourselves in has taken a toll on our relationships, marriage, life and mentality.
This building can be used for many needy in this community and yes it does need renovations, but I am aware of all the problems and there is nothing that cannot be repaired. I know that there are many families in this area who are suffering in the same way as my family, and that God always wants to Restore the family unit. HE does not want divisions, divorce, separations or evictions!
I have asked for assistance from so many in South Africa, but no-one seems to hear our plea or that of all the severely affected families in our community, who can no longer cope with any kind of normalcy. I would like to see a place where programs can be implemented to help Restore families, not just give them food parcels.
With a calling to ministry and being an active member of the church for many years, I am willing to take responsibility for the implementation of such a place, since the Lord has put RESTORE Family in my heart. The family unit is God's design and the foundation of society. Without it Society will crumble. I am asking whoever feels led to assist us in any way, to PLEASE do so, or to PRAY.
I have chosen to do a gogetfunding campaign because I have now become tired and discouraged. My family need to get back on their feet and attempt to find some kind of normalcy in this situation. Hopefully we can raise enough funds as a backup should we have to leave this property. With the unemployment rate so very high, we could possibly start a small business as our creative gifts allow us to make a variety of products.
Thank you and God Bless. I will be posting updates on this platform to keep all interested parties informed.