Woman says shelter abused her rights

Jacqueline Rodriques stayed at the The Salvation Army Carehaven.

Jacqueline Rodriques feels her human rights were infringed upon when she was evicted from The Salvation Army Carehaven for abused women and children, and described living there as a “prison”.

In response to the allegations, administrator Marinda Lang said Ms Rodriques had accumulated points against her, most of which were for being rude to staff, but was not evicted.

Ms Rodriques was taken in by the Carehaven in February this year after she was allegedly sexually mishandled by a man with whom she had stayed and had nowhere else to go.

But the shelter’s policy is for residents to take part in the upkeep of the facility, which includes cleaning, so despite her wishes not to have to interact with others, Ms Rodriques was not allowed to stay in her room and be left alone.

After refusing to “scrub the floors and walls”, she says, she found out about the point system at Carehaven.

“If you disrespected the staff or you refused to clean or asked too many questions or had a friend in your room it all counted against you and once you had 10 points you had to leave,” she said.

Ms Rodriques said without her knowledge she had been accumulating points from Thursday July 19 and on Monday July 30 she was told that she had 21 points against her and was told to leave by Carehaven’s management.

“I asked how could that be because when I asked my social worker on Friday July 27 how many points I have, she said none. I had no chance to appeal my eviction,” she said.

Ms Rodriques said on the day she was told to leave, she had asked to stay until August 1 as she had nowhere to go. She said that management forced her to sign a letter which stipulated the points against her in order to extend her stay.

She had been penalised for having someone in her room, refusing to clean the skills room, disrespecting the staff, lying to the staff, refusing to assist in the kitchen, and swearing.

Ms Lang, however, said clients were told of the house rules on admission and signed an agreement to adhere to them.

She said the clients’ responsibilities at the Carehaven included sweeping, dusting, mopping, doing the dishes, and cleaning and tidying their own rooms as part of their daily routine which ensured that clients left the centre as empowered and self-reliant members of society as many of them had lost their domestic capabilities while living on the street.

She said most of the points against Ms Rodriques had been accumulated due to her swearing at the staff and clients.

On Monday September 10 Ms Rodriques lodged a complaint with the Western Cape Department of Social Development.

“I started getting seizures because I was so stressed out and overworked. I was treated with no respect, or professionalism (and was) verbally abused.

“If one person does something wrong the entire place is on lock-down. You can’t ask questions or you get points.

“On Friday July 20 we had to do a dance for the sponsors and because it was wasn’t good enough we were on lock-down that entire weekend,” she claimed.

She further said that when donations were dropped off for the clients they never received it, instead it was sold to various shops.

“One day we asked for warm clothes because it was so cold and they gave us huge men’s track pants that were falling down.

“Our phones were confiscated all the time. We were isolated, you couldn’t make friends or sit in groups or enjoy yourself. My freedom of speech was taken away and I was targeted because I am a vocal person,” she said.

Ms Lang said that their duties did not include hard labour or exploitation and sometimes the women would offer to do more chores for pocket money.

“The policy relating to visiting each other in the bedrooms is mostly to facilitate the safety of clients’ possessions as there is ample room to relax and visit in the lounges and dining room, and the garden.

“When donors donate items we tell them that articles that cannot be used by the home such as big furniture, men’s clothing, baths, toilets, or paintings will be sold in the thrift store and the money given back to the programme to cover costs.

If they do not want the stuff sold then we give it to someone who can make use of it,” she said.

She added that the allegation that the woman were not allowed to ask questions was unfounded.

“The allegation that if staff are disrespected that the whole centre is lock down is also not correct. In a particular incident the three clients affected were not allowed out as a result of their behaviour. The rest of the clients continued as per usual,” she said.

She also said that Ms Rodriques had not been thrown out of the Carehaven, but given an extension to stay until Monday September 10.

“She said that she had a place to go and would not tell us where. She was always made aware of the points against her,” she said.

Another of the Carehaven’s clients, who cannot be named due to the sensitive nature of why she is at the shelter, said it was difficult for some of the women to get into the habit of taking responsibility for their rooms and completing chores because of long periods of time on the streets but it made her feel like herself again and helped to rehabilitate the women.

“This place did so much for me. My cupboards are full and I came here with nothing. When I came here I didn’t know myself but because now I recognise the woman that my mother raised. My rights were never infringed upon, it is tough getting into the routine but this is our home and we must take care of it like we would take care of our own. We are only doing things here that our mothers taught us to do,” she said.

The Athlone News contacted the Western Cape Department of Social Development and an investigation is currently under way.

Spokeswoman for the Western Cape Department of Social Development, Esther Lewis, said: “These types of complaints are viewed in a serious light, and thus have been investigated by the department. The recommendations of the report will be discussed with management to ensure compliance with the required norms and standards.”