HOMELESS people who sleep in the dunes and bushes at Supertubes Park near the legendary surf spot are damaging the image of Jeffreys Bay, residents are complaining.
A number of concerned residents who live in the area also say they are too afraid to take a walk in the park because the vagrants are frequently drunk, defecate on pathways, and have no regard for the fauna and flora in the area.
One of the residents, Christa Neethling, said she had tried in vain to have authorities do something about the problem.
“I have reported them to law enforcement, the local police and the neighbourhood watch, but nothing is done,” she said.
Neethling says the bush dwellers also frequently fight among themselves when they are intoxicated.
Kouga Municipality Communications Officer, Mfundo Sobele agrees that the issue of homeless people has been an ongoing challenge for quite a while.
“We cannot wish people living on the streets away and removing them from one area is merely shifting the problem to the next. Homeless people, in spite of their situation, have rights like all South Africans and these need to be taken into account when addressing their situation.”
For Alison Kühl, representative of the Supertubes Surfing Foundation, the situation is very disheartening.
“It is a difficult situation. The bush dwellers simply put down a piece of cardboard on top of indigenous plants, killing them. This is one of the last pieces of indigenous bush near the beach and we ought to protect it. Some even tried to erect shacks in the bush.”
Kühl is also upset about some snares they found in the bush. She believes widespread poaching is taking place. The Foundation has injected thousands of private funds for the upkeep of the Supertubes Park.
“Locks and gates are frequently broken and stolen,” she added.
Sobele says the matter is more complex than it seems.
“Breaking locks and vandalising are criminal activities, and must be taken up with the police and those responsible, whether they are homeless people or not, must be brought to book.”
Vagrants cause a host of problems for the two employees of the Foundation, Zack Davidson and Lukas Dyantyi.
They say the vagrants trample the flower beds and defecate on pathways. Davidson and Dyantyi are also concerned about their own safety. They have enclosed some of the bush with barbed-wire but it simply gets cut.
Legendary resident, Bruce Gold, says besides the traffic in J-Bay, beggars are a real problem.
“We surfers used to live in the bush in the 60s. But times have changed.”
He also said he saw a video showing these vagrants catching and eating a mongoose.
A resident who lives opposite the park and prefers to remain anonymous, says municipal law enforcement officers appear to be unable to resolve the problem. He proposes a meeting between the municipality and homeowners in the region.
“We need to make it uncomfortable for these people to sleep here,” he said.
He also suggests that much more can be done. His suggestions include the removal of water taps, improved lighting, wider pathways, cutting down the lower branches from trees and the removal of braais close to the bushes. He also questioned the location of the recycling drop spot in the park. He believes the recycling material is used as fuel by the vagrants.
“This is a social challenge which requires joint action by all stakeholders concerned. These include the municipality, the residents, business and sector departments such as Social Development and SAPS,” said Sobele.