I was a drug addict for about 15 years. I was thrown out by family, nobody wanted me. I landed up on the street.— Zulfah Boyce, Graduate of U-Turn programme
That's how Zulfah Boyce starts the story of her journey as a homeless person who's now moved on to become a rehabilitated addict and a sales consultant with the help of the U-Turn programme in Cape Town.
On Weekend Breakfast she relates how, after losing all hope in people, being given a U-Turn voucher by a stranger changed her life.
The non-governmental organisation provides support for people living on the streets, including rehabilitation and skills training.
It's also working to change the public perception of the homeless through its #NotHopeless photo campaign.
They welcomed me with open arms... You feel like you belong to a family because all the people there are homeless.— Zulfah Boyce, Graduate of U-Turn programme
Boyce took part in a rehabilitation programme and attended U-Turn's workshops where she learned to cut up unsellable second-hand clothing which is then sold to clients like mechanics.
Now, she's been clean for four years and is employed as a sales consultant.
She says to get off the street, homeless people have to want a better life and then, to never give up.
You can do anything you put your mind to, you must believe that you are worth something in this life.— Zulfah Boyce, Graduate of U-Turn programme
Partnership development manager Rowen Ravera explains that the programme is multi-phased, starting with basic needs relief like food and clothing and then, while building a relationship of trust, fostering a culture of accountability.
U-turn pays for accommodation at shelters and manages addicts' rehabilitation as outpatients.
It's through that process that we're able to screen people for drug and alcohol rehab. We partner with really great organisations across the city like Loaves and Fishes, like the Carpenter Shop which is now called Hope Exchange, like Matrix Parkwood for outpatient rehab.— Rowen Ravera, Partnership development manager - U-Turn
She says their high rehabilitation rate has even made the South African Medical Research Council "sit up and pay attention".
Our rehab rate is currently sitting at around 80% whereas the average is around 30-40%.— Rowen Ravera, Partnership development manager - U-Turn
However, as the relapse rate of rehabilitated addicts is traditionally high, U-Turn also includes another step in the recovery process - its Life Change programme provides sheltered work-based opportunities to participants for up to 18 months through a city-wide franchise of second-hand clothing shops.
Here they learn skills like computer literacy and business communication.
All of those shops are managed from the top down by people who are on our programme - it's really a training ground.— Rowen Ravera, Partnership development manager - U-Turn
For more information and to purchase U-Turn vouchers, visit homeless.org.za.
Listen to the inspiring conversation with Boyce and Ravera below:
This article first appeared on CapeTalk : #NotHopeless: Changing attitudes towards the homeless