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The Carpenter’s Shop – everyone deserves a second chance

Meeting basic human needs should be simple.

This is one of the core beliefs of The Carpenter’s Shop (TCS) – a non-profit organisation based in Roeland Street focused on the integration of the homeless back into society. With over 7 000 people currently sleeping on the street in Cape Town, this is no small feat. Thankfully, TCS has roughly three decades of experience. As the GP/OKCID we are proud to host this facility in our neighbourhood, as their work is hugely beneficial to the entire community.

Janet Chadwick, a representative of The Carpenter’s Shop, says that the main goal of the organisation is to gain entry to the lives of those on the street by providing for their basic needs first. This opportunity is then used to speak to clients’ emotional and mental development as well. “We offer homeless and vulnerable people basic services as a means of creating a point of contact between our clients and our social care team,” says Janet. “We provide opportunities for meaningful change in their lives and their circumstances.”

Ultimately, the goal is to reduce homelessness by tackling it from many angles. This includes: reunifying people with their families and reintegrating them into society through employment.

Back to basics

Many people do not consider the complexity of challenges faced by the homeless on a daily basis. It is not as simple as handing someone cash in a moment or buying them a quick meal. Those things may alleviate the need for a moment, but are not sustainable solutions and should not be the main way that the public responds to homelessness. Long term, people need to be attended to with dignity and given regular access to support, ablutions, and warm meals. Partnering with TCS is one way to go about really helping the destitute in our city.

Homeless people are given access to ablutions and places to wash their clothes once a week. Donated clothing is sorted, stored and kept on hand, ready to be distributed as and when there is a need. Other services include meal provision, with the help of a number of NPO’s including Ladles of Love, RPJ Helping Hands and Souper Troopers who provide meals and social events on the weekend and during the week.

Regular washing is incentivised by the distribution of a meal token to be used at The Service Dining Room after the use of the washing facilities.

Aside from the free ablution facilities, The Carpenters shop also offers regular health and wellness clinic days where people can be tested for HIV and TB and then referred to centres for further care.

Since January of this year, TCS has helped 2 071 individuals with ablutions, clinic visits, clothing assistance, accommodation, group work, training and food (not including weekend meals).

Guiding and nurturing

At TCS, people are offered individual counselling and group work sessions to help them process emotion and understand their decision-making process. This empowers clients to make informed, healthy choices in the future. Clients are also given social care support and life skills training to assist them in becoming financially stable over time.

Janet says that their greatest triumph is working with the clients and seeing their progress. “We share joy in every win that our clients experience and are excited with them when someone gets employed, graduates, or improves their quality of life in any way.” The greatest lesson that she has learned through engaging and speaking with clients is that everyone has a different story.

“I try to encourage all the volunteers who engage with our clients to get to know them, to listen and learn about their stories,” she shares. “I have met people who have written theses for their masters in Theology, talented musicians, Buddhists, published poets, people who have studied in Germany and Sweden, visionaries – all with fascinating stories. I found my assumptions challenged and my perspectives opened so much.”

Final steps to freedom

Originally, The Carpenter’s Shop provided carpentry training, but with the advent of technology and changes in the marketplace, they have adapted their offering to best meet clients’ needs. They now host skills workshops as well as providing life skills training and job readiness programs.

People are able to receive basic training in the digital sphere as well through the Unlock’d programme. There is also a car wash which is open to the public and run by Bobo, manager of The Car Wash. The process is waterless aside from using non-potable water to steam clean seats or remove dried mud. There is also a second-hand clothing store on site which is open to the public – all the proceeds from both of these initiatives go directly to the shelter.

In terms of assisting those that are able to find stable employment, there is access granted to a second-phase shelter on site. Geoff Burton House provides temporary stable accommodation to men who are trying to get back on their feet. It can accommodate up to 40 at a time for a period of three months (although residents can apply to stay longer).

In conclusion, The Carpenter’s Shop provides hope for those who society may have given up hope on, reminding us that everyone deserves a second chance.

Janet encourages businesses and individuals to engage with the organisation. They are eager to partner with those in the surrounding area to continue to grow and improve their facilities. It is the perfect place to invest your money rather than a quick, impersonal handout at a robot.

Involvement can be as simple as having your car washed, adopting a collection box to gather much-needed toiletries or clothing, directing the homeless people in your area to TCS, or donating towards our operating costs. Any contribution is welcome!


For more information about The Carpenter’s Shop:

Check out their website:


Call: Janet Chadwick (021) 461 5508


To donate to The Carpenters Shop, follow this link.


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