Women’s shelter repeatedly vandalised

Burglars gain access to the property through this fence, which has been vandalised countless times.

Women and children, who live at The Salvation Army Carehaven, have suffered further trauma after the home was broken into several times over the past three weeks.

The home provides safe accommodation for women and their children fleeing domestic violence.

Carehaven has suffered a number of burglaries since it was established in 1990, but these have become more frequent over the past two years. Recently there were two burglaries in one week, according to The Salvation Army’s public relations secretary, Major Carin Holmes.

In the latest incidents last week, burglars once again broke the fence close to the Early Childhood Development (ECD) centre on Wednesday August 14, at about 2am.

Major Holmes said they contacted ADT after the security guard heard a loud noise. The security company immediately arrived on the scene and saw a few men running away. Two and a half hours later, the security guard alerted Carehaven administrator, Captain Miranda Lang that the men had returned to finish the job.

This time they gained access to the building by breaking the pantry window. They took knives from the kitchen and ripped out pipes and taps outside.

The burglars also took two 9kg gas tanks which were locked up in a cage outside and broke the walk-in fridge.

“As the guard came around the corner and saw this, the man tried to hit him with one of the taps. One of the client’s took her sick child to the bathroom and noticed one man trying to get into the bathroom through the window but when he saw her he stopped.”

Major Holmes said the women have now suffered further trauma and it is sad that a safe place had been violated.

“They are there because of violence and now this has happened. We will be getting more security guards with dogs which will cost us more but the women and children’s safety is important. It’s sad that gangsters are zooming in on the vulnerable. We are helping the community, I don’t know what their motivation is.”

Captain Lang said the break-ins started getting worse this month, with incidents occurring almost daily.

On Thursday night, around 6pm, a man jumped over the fence while the children were still playing outside.

The man jumped back over the fence after one of the children alerted a mother.

Major Holmes said while they tried to explain to the women that they were doing what they could to increase security, they still felt unsafe and afraid.

However, the hiring of another security guard did make them feel a bit more at ease.

She said the men were ruthless and determined to get what they want.

“When the house mother saw him ripping the pipes and taps out of the window, she said ‘Stop don’t do that’ and he replied ‘I will do it because I can’,” she said.

Athlone police station spokeswoman, Zita Norman, said although the road where Carehaven is based is not a hot spot, homes and businesses were vulnerable during the early hours of the morning.

She said no arrests had been made yet and police would continue to patrol the area.

The Western Cape Department of Social Development’s head of communications, Esther Lewis, said a security assessment of the property would be conducted.

“A site visit between The Salvation Army management and DSD is planned for early next week to plot a way forward. Appropriate counselling services will be availed to the residents, as well as staff at the shelter,” she said.

Major Holmes appealed to the public and business community to come forward and assist The Salvation Army provide improved security services at the shelter. Anyone willing to help can contact her on 011 718 6745 or carin.holmes@saf.salvationarmy.org

Carehaven provides skills training, such as computer literacy and sewing, to the women. It also has a small crèche, so women fortunate enough to find employment can go out to work with peace of mind.