A house in dire need

James House partnership manager, Alene Smith, outside the landmark facility on Riverside Terrace.

Iconic Hout Bay child and youth care centre, James House, has been dealt a crippling blow by the withdrawal of one its biggest funders, meaning that unless an annual amount of R5 million can be found, 20 essential staff will have to be retrenched by April 1.

The facility, established in 1986 with the aim of providing basic needs for children in need in the Hout Bay community, services 1 720 children and youth between the ages of 0 and 35. James House is viewed as a cornerstone of youth protection and development in the village.

The withdrawal of the backer will result in the retrenchment of 20 staff, regarded as key to operations. Ninety-five percent of these employees are from the Imizamo Yethu and Hangberg communities.

“These staff are employed in our residential treatment centre and community-based programmes, and are employed to make sure the kids are taken care of,” said James House partnership manager, Alene Smith.

“The community programmes make sure families have IDs, the kids stay in school and they are supervised after school. These are our ground level employees, and are essential to operations.”

James House received news of the funder’s withdrawal on Monday January 22.

“Our facility has been going for 32 years, and to get a knock like this is huge,” Ms Smith said.

Since being registered as an NPO in 2000, James House has expanded exponentially and now comprises five essential programmes: Isibindi, B.E.S.T (Building Emotionally Strong Teens, STARS (Systemic Treatment for Adolescents with behavioural challenges in a Residential Setting) and Champions (prevents school dropout and reintegrates children back into school).

In 2016, James House added a training component where internal and external training is offered.

According to Ms Smith, staff have taken the news badly of their pending retrenchment. “It has been very difficult.

“They know their jobs are coming to an end at the beginning of April and there are feelings of hopelessness. These staff members are single parents, and they have families to feed. There is so much anxiety every day.

“We are in the process of contacting other care facilities to see if they could employ them in the event of us not being able to raise the required funds, but that is a last resort.”

James House management is in the process of informing the organisation’s four other funders of the situation.

“To continue with what we have left, there will be a lot of restructuring, including salary cuts. In order for us to keep operations as they are currently, we would need R5 million annually.” The withdrawal of the funder is set to hit the residential programme hardest.

“This includes 32 kids who have been ordered by the courts into our programme due to behavioural problems. We are also registered as a child protection agency, so these children will have to be accommodated at other facilities. If that can’t be done, then these children will end up on the streets without the necessary rehabilitation. This situation is causing us sleepless nights,” Ms Smith said.

She appealed to the Cape Town community to rally behind James House. “It is now a question of raising money to ensure we can continue our operations effectively. We have various options for people to make a contribution – a large, once-off contribution; a monthly contribution of R100; a once-off R10 contribution and through our R2 fund-raising campaign. We are also appealing to companies who might come to our assistance.”

Last week, James House employees went door-to-door in Vredendal, where two of the organisation’s other sites are located, in an attempt to raise funds.

“We are trying everything to keep our staff members on board,” Ms Smith said.

For more information on how donors can assist, contact Fabio@jameshouse.org.za, alene@jameshouse.org.za, call 021 790 5616 or visit www.jameshouse.org.za