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Bloem Shelter, a refuge to many

Members of Bikers-4-Mandela handover gifts to Bloem Shelter founder, Izak Botha

By Nonceba Soul                                                                                      –

After noticing hordes of homeless people sleeping at traffic lights and pavements, one Bloemfontein couple decided to do their part to bring relief to the affected.

Established in 2002, the Bloem Shelter is the brainchild of Izak Botha and his wife, Sonja Venter. Situated at number 4 Raymond Mhlaba Street on the periphery of the city centre, caters for everyone who is need of a place to stay.

“We accept people of all ages and backgrounds except those that are terminally ill as we don’t have a resident doctor or nurse at the shelter. We take in people who are able to work and clean up their room,” Keabecoe Choene, a volunteer at Bloem Shelter said.

At the moment, there are two shelters; the first one is for women and children while the second is for men.

Currently, Bloem Shelter houses 30 people, eight of them being children. The number of people at the shelter fluctuates as some leave while some arrive to seek a place to stay.

According to Choene, a couple of months ago, the shelter was looking after 40 people but some of them have since left the institution.

The shelter faces various challenges, the biggest one being money as it is a non-profit making organisation. It relies on sponsorship from the community as well as corporate organisations to provide food, bedding and other services to the people living there.

“I think we want to host as many people as we can but we don’t have enough space and money. I remember when I first came to the shelter, one of the rooms was actually an office but then we had many people coming in and we had to convert it into a bedroom,” Choene explained.

Bloem Shelter’s needs are made complex by the fact that they also take care of small children who require food, clothes, special appliances and even school uniforms. The shelter sometimes raises funds on their own but these are far from being adequate.

“We have certain things that we need to achieve but again we lack resources and volunteers. There are companies that make one time donations while assist for up to three months. There are also individuals who assist with whatever they have and this comes in handy.”

The Botha family has adopted children but 90% of them come with their parents as they are from abusive relationships. Some of the women in the shelter were married but were being abused by their husbands.

The shelter also puts the children in schools and then organise transport for them every day.

“The shelter works with social workers. Sometimes they place kids in the shelter for a while before putting them up for adoption,” she said.

Sometimes the police bring people to Bloem Shelter while some people just come and sit down with the owner and explain their situations.

“The process differs from individual to individual but the process is not difficult. If there is an available bed and the person needs a place to stay, Bloem Shelter is there to assist,” said Choene.

Some of the women at the shelter are involved in the Programme Hidistic Development (PHD) where they bake, sew T-shirts and make bracelets which they then sell to the community to raise money. The money raised is then used to help in the running of the shelter.

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