As they celebrated their 26th wedding anniversary, Hazel and Eddie de Vos embarked on a new journey – moving to Cape Town from Johannesburg to manage the Waterfront branch of the Salvation Army.
And while they have only been at the organisation’s men’s home in Alfred Street for less than a month, Operation Clean-up is under way, as well as plans to revamp the building.
These plans, however, will take some time to materialise because money is tight.
“All Salvation Army branches are required to be self sustainable. We rely on donations from the public and the low rentals the men who live in the home, pay,” said Hazel. “And our charity shop, which is also in desperate need of a revamp.”
The Salvation Army was started in 1865 by William Booth, an English minister who decided to take his message into the streets where it would reach the poor, the homeless, the hungry and the destitute.
“Most people associate the Salvation Army with charity, but it is actually a church, “said Eddie.
“We have two components – the church, and social ministry – where we reach out and try to help people. It’s Christianity with its sleeves rolled up.”
Hazel, who is originally from Port Elizabeth, has been part of the Salvation Army all her life. “I grew up in the Salvation Army church and moved through the ranks. I was ordained in 1971 – I’ve been in ministry for 47 years.”
Eddie’s parents were ministers at the Salvation Army church, so they moved a lot. Eventually settling in the UK, he did most of his learning there and returned to Cape Town in 1989.
“I’ve been in ministry for 25 years,” he said.
And although Hazel is retired, she is still active in ministry and helping around the home, until Eddie is due for retirement eight years from now.
Over the years, Hazel and Eddie have taken on many ventures through the Salvation Army, including managing and ministering at children’s homes, old-aged homes, men’s homes and goodwill centres, among others. Now, the men’s home in the Waterfront has become home for Hazel and Eddie since they moved from Johannesburg.
The seven-storey building is home to 110 men who, in Eddie’s words, “have fallen through the cracks”.
“The home is aimed at lower income gentlemen who struggle to find accommodation. We are trying to reach out to the destitute, but it’s not a free facility. We rely heavily on the low rentals – but it’s not enough to keep the doors open.”
Hazel said some of the men had been at the home for 40 years – as long as the building has been there.
“This is home to them.
“We want to be able to lift the residents’ social and spiritual standards, and improve their living conditions.”
Anyone is welcome to live at the home, but a screening test is required, and the men must be able to pay the minimum rental.
The building also has a small laundry and has two cleaners.
Eddie said the building is old and “looks tired”, with the living spaces needing an upgrade.
“We battle with funding. There are some structural repairs happening outside which will cost us about R500 000. We need to revamp the rooms as well – but all of this costs money that we don’t have.
“The kitchen really needs an upgrade too. We feed the men here three meals a day. It’s functional but needs a revamp.”
One of the biggest challenges the two face is the water crisis.
“We came from Johannesburg, where we have water, so we had to make a plan. We went out and bought buckets and baths, and we are looking to install tanks to store water,” said Hazel.
She said they had also removed some of the taps and turned off some of the toilets.
“We encourage residents to save every drop, but it’s difficult to keep things clean. We are trying to save, but we don’t have the infrastructure.”
Eddie said they had yet to reach out to the community, who supported them with small donations.
“The support at the moment is limited. We would love to reach out to businesses and people who could help us by donating items or time, or by adopting us as a social project.
“The Salvation Army considers itself part of the community, and we are open to building relationships with our neighbours,” he said.
One of the tenants at the home, Lloyd Nolan, has lived there for 27 years and runs the Salvation Army’s charity shop – which is also in need of some TLC.
Asked about the new management, he said: “Having new management has its ups and downs. It’s only been a week or two, so we still need to adjust. It’s hard to adjust sometimes.”
He has been working in the charity shop for over a year.
“We struggle because there is no passing trade. The road is quiet, and we don’t have proper signage. We used to have a shop in Woodstock but it closed down because the rent was expensive.
“We still have bulk buyers in Woodstock who get things from us when donations come in. If it wasn’t for them, we won’t survive.”
Eddie and Hazel said while they were happy to have been appointed at the Waterfront branch of the Salvation Army, there were many things demanding their time. “The best part is that we get to minister to 110 more people.”
They appealed to the community to assist them with the revamp of the building. Some of thethings they need are:
A hairdresser or barber willing to donate time and resources.
New linen and curtaining for the rooms.
Office, dining room and reception furniture
Soap, toothpaste, face cloths, shaving blades, shaving foam and other toiletries.
Sponsorship for men with disabilities.
Food (all types, perishable and non-perishable).
Gifts for birthdays and special days
Upgrades to the bathrooms, kitchen and residents’ rooms.
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