Cape Town Homeless get a “Hand up” Instead of Just a “Hand Out”

U-Turn Equips the Homeless with Skills to Overcome Homelessness

Claremont, Cape town 7 June. Over the past 21 years, U-Turn has crafted an innovative skills-based programme designed by occupational therapists, with long term results for rehabilitation and reintegration. Six months after graduating from the programme, more than 80% of participants remain employed and sober. As part of Heart FM’s 16 Days for Youth initiative, U-Turn was identified as an organisation that needed to be heard.

U-Turn offers a phased programme that starts with basic needs relief, like food and clothing, available at the First Phase Service Centre. It continues on to Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Support, and finally culminates in a work-based learnership that lasts on average 19 months, called the “Life Change” programme, which nurtures an individual’s personal and vocational skills, as well as relapse prevention.

The Life Change programme is the heart of U-turn’s skills development model and offers work-placement at one of our Charity shops, our laundry or at our First Phase Service Centre. The shops are managed from the top down by formerly homeless individuals, providing on-the-job learning of merchandising, stock taking, customer service and other skills. Participants also access weekly occupational therapy, relapse prevention and formal training in English, literacy, IT, as well as accredited business management for selected participants.

Timothy Burd, from Mitchell’s Plain, is s real success story. He shared his story with Irma G yesterday morning where the station broadcast live from the Service centre, or “power house” as they call it, in Claremont.

Today Timothy is a Life Change “Champion” and bears testament to what the program has done for him as an individual. He spoke of how he came from a loving middle-class home with no real issues. He explains how he got involved in the wrong crowd in high school and how his drug addiction eventually led to his demise. In hindsight, he now says he knows he had a choice, and takes accountability for making the wring choices. He  shares, “I threw away every opportunity I had. I had good jobs, great support and I threw it all away not realising how it would literally change my world.” He ended up on the streets after those close to him had no more choice but to give up on him.

For years, he was on the streets of Cape Town. Once he made the decision to seek help, he knew he wanted “out” but didn’t know how. He describes himself and how other homeless people feel as feeling “isolated” and not having the “courage” to.

After he spent some time at a local rehabilitation centre, he found out about U-Turn, and the rest is history. When asked what is different about U-Turn, Timothy exudes positivity and excitement. He explains how the Life change program changed his life through occupational therapy, kills training and work experience. Not only does he now have a good job, but has been reintegrated into society, but has been taught how to manage his budget, and save. He talks about reintegration instead of rehabilitation. Today he has  re-built the trust of his family that he disappointed and hurt all those years back, and is working on fostering healthy, meaningful relationships with them again.

Resource Development Manager, Rowan Reviera, explains how the homeless epidemic is complex in nature and is a cycle of homelessness, drugs & alcohol abuse, unemployment and crime. She explains that although providing a hot meal, warm clothes and a shelter provides much needed short-term help.

U-Turn focuses on getting people off the street.

This program costs approximately R9 500 per individual per month. As an organisation they rely heavily on funding and donations. However, they have done their homework, and found a partial solution. They have opened six stores in the Cape Metropole which sell clothes, shoes, and bric-a-brac. These charity shops are not only a training ground for skills development for members of the program, but an income generator for the organisation. Almost 40% of their income is generated from the stores.

For more information go to:

In partnership with 16 Days for Youth, Baron’s Cape Town and McDonald’s Western Cape have become drop off points for donations of non-perishable food items, until Sunday the 16thof June.

For more information about the initiative, go to

Follow the journey on social media @heart104.9fm  or @16DaysForYouth