On Tuesday, the 24-year-old man from Manenberg was caught red-handed at the Multi-Purpose Centre in Eerste River.
But instead of calling the police, Gail Hilario, 47, who is the team leader at the centre, decided to give the man his dignity back after he apologised for what he had done.
In a matter of moments, the team quickly arranged a fresh set of clothing for the young man who had been sleeping on the streets for years.
They cleaned him up by allowing him to shower.
Gail, who has two children of her own, says she experienced a spiritual moment and decided to help the young man.
“My staff caught him stealing hubcaps off cars in the parking area on our work property and it was an odd thing because he could have stolen these items from cars which were standing on the outside,” she says.
“In that moment I saw that he had been sent to us for a reason, a purpose.
“I decided I could not not send him back in the same way he had come to us.”
Gail says the man didn’t waste time in admitting he was wrong and told her he had landed on the streets after becoming addicted to tik and found himself sleeping on the streets.
“He said he knew what he had done was wrong and apologised,” she says.
“He said he had not eaten for two days.”
Gail and her team quickly organised clothing for the man. “At first he spoke only to me and not the staff.
“You could see his self-esteem was low, neither he nor his clothing were washed, and it was good to restore that.
“We let him shower at our facilities at work and neighbours arranged clothing and shoes for him.”
Gail says she’s proud of her staff: “We even prayed for him, he reached out to us, asking for help for a place for his drug addiction.”
Gail explains the young man then left the centre for a relative’s home in Mitchells Plain, promising not to go back to Manenberg, where he fell into the drug habit.
The Greater Blue Downs Community Policing Forum vice-chairperson, Henry Beerwinkel, says Gail is a true example of a hero: “We thank Gail for this noble deed and we salute her.
“You’re a hero and an example to many of us,” he says.