By Shakirah Thebus
Cape Town – A former homeless woman has taken a skill learnt while living on the streets and has now managed to establish her own business.
After her husband’s death in 2008 and her father in 2010, Carin Rhoode, 50, originally from Athlone, described how her world had fallen apart, leading to her homelessness in 2011.
“I didn’t want to be a burden on anybody and they (her family) all had their family. I thought that I would be able to do it on my own and wanted to do it on my own. I’ve always been a very independent person. My family didn’t know that I was homeless, they only found out a while afterwards,” she said.
Her first experience of homelessness was after visiting Groote Schuur Hospital, where she had nowhere to go. After browsing a newspaper, she came across a notice from CCID and made contact with someone, which led her to stay at the Haven Night Shelter, in Napier Street, Green Point, where she stayed for a while.
Rhoode said she was sexually harassed at the shelter by one of the supervisors, prompting her to leave immediately. Despite moving from different shelters and back on to streets on numerous occasions, she had managed to secure a few jobs. She lived in a tent at the Company Gardens and worked as a hairstylist in Woodstock for six months at the start of 2018. The salon later closed, leaving her without a source of income.
“Being homeless and working is a difficult thing. You need to be presentable at all times.”
She and her then partner would scout Greenmarket Square in search of beads, and would then create bracelets and other jewellery to sell.
“I started stealing with my eyes – how to make bracelets and work with cord, and started making stuff and selling it. I was never someone to ask somebody or to beg for small change. I just made stuff and people would buy from me. That was my way of surviving – my way of having a meal for the day, a cup of coffee, or to buy a pair of shoes.”
She recalled an incident last year, when she was living in a park and had injured her wrist. She had received money from someone to go to Somerset Hospital to have her injury checked out. Upon her return, she found out law enforcement had ransacked her tent. They returned two days later and fined her for dumping and littering.
“They would take our shelter and would rather have us lie in the cold than leave us with the cardboard and plastic. I felt, as a human being, I had no rights because this was done to us on a daily basis. Law enforcement took all my stock, all my clothes, including my bottom dentures. It was so cruel because I worked hard for all that I had,” she said.
With the assistance of several NGOs and individuals along the way, Rhoode now finds herself housed at the YMCA Cape Flats Rotary Camp and proudly calls herself a jewellery designer, creating intricate pieces to be sold, as well as masks and artwork.
Rhoode was recently contacted by Unilever for a campaign with their Sunlight product. Sunlight also awarded her R150000 to support her business.
“Homeless people get abused on the streets. They try to make you a prostitute or a thief, but I held on to my principles, what my mother and father taught me.”