‘My outlook in life has changed tremendously,’ says Dimitri Cupido, a U-turn Homeless Ministries success story

Dimitri Cupido. Picture: screenshot

Dimitri Cupido. Picture: screenshot

Published May 13, 2024


A homeless organisation is changing the way they assist people and are now up-skilling people to ensure their futures are as bright as their personalities.

U-turn Homeless Ministries was founded in 1997 and its programmes and activities are aimed at poverty relief and skills development for homeless people.

“Our four-phase model has been refined over the years and more than 90% of U-turn graduates remain sober, employed, and housed long-term. U-turn tracks three outcomes, sobriety, employment, and housing and each outcome is implemented across each phase along continuums of care,” the organisation said.

“In addition, U-turn provides family reunification services, accommodation, meal services, work opportunities linked to stipends, life skills, computer training, and vouchers for responsible giving among the public.”

U-turn Homeless Ministries boasts several success stories, of which one of the stories is Dimitri Cupido from Athlone.

The father of one from Athlone was reared in a strict household, however, after receiving some corporal punishment from his father, he grew resentful and felt like his family did not love him.

“I went looking for love elsewhere,” Dimitri said.

He started mixing with the wrong crowd and soon fell into the life of crime and drugs.

As a juvenile, he spent some time in Pollsmoor Prison, yet, this did not give him the wake-up call he needed, instead, he fell deeper into illegal activities and drugs.

“I used tik (methamphetamine) and heroin. From my teens to my late 20s I was in prison. I can say I grew up in prison,” Dimitri said.

After he was put out of the house by his father, Dimitri would sleep in the car in the yard, still in denial that he was homeless.

This, also made him go even deeper into crime, he explained how he broke into houses while people were sleeping just to support his drug habit.

He said the first and second time he received vouchers, he did not want it, he wanted money as he was still on drugs at the time.

The turning point in his life was seeing his daughter growing up.

“The third time I got a voucher I came out of prison and I wanted to change my life. The guy who lived opposite me had a bicycle and I told myself I am going to ask him to lend his bike,” he explains.

“I am going to cycle. I wanted to try out this voucher. They asked me a lot of questions and I thought I should maybe just listen to these people.”

Dimitri cycled from Athlone to Claremont to attend the U-turn Homeless Ministries services.

“I want better for her. I am living here now (at facility) because I needed to get out of that area. The area is so negative. I also don’t want my daughter to grow up in that area,” Dimitri said.

His life changed for the better.

“I can only thank God. I think I was one year in recovery and my dad passed away. I still had that one year in my recovery that I could mend our relationship,” Dimitri said.

A vision he had only dreamt of, soon turned to fruition when the ministry opened its landscaping section and nursery.

Dimitri is now the manager of the landscaping section of the ministry and runs the nursery along with his fellow peers.

“My outlook in life has changed tremendously. Even when I was doing the wrong thing, I was the best at it. Now that I am doing positive things, I can change not just my future but also the lives of other people who can see I am there by their side,” he said.

The organisation will be hosting an event, A Night on the Street.

The event in collaboration with BMW Constantia will bring together business leaders, politicians, city officials, and key influencers to spend a night sleeping on the pavement in Claremont. This initiative aims to shed light on the pressing issue of homelessness while raising crucial funds to support U-turn’s efforts, particularly winter approaches.

There is also a virtual event option and tickets are available via Quicket.

The organisation can also be contacted via its website www.homeless.org.za.

[email protected]