The fate of homeless people that the City took to a site in Strandfontein continues after someone tested positive for Covid-19. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency/ANA
The fate of homeless people that the City took to a site in Strandfontein continues after someone tested positive for Covid-19. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency/ANA

Covid-19 case raises concern on impact on Cape homeless linked to Strandfontein site

By Shakirah Thebus Time of article published May 22, 2020

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Cape Town - The City of Cape Town’s predicament over the fate of homeless people it took to a site in Strandfontein continues after someone tested positive for Covid-19.

A group of people at the City’s emergency shelter at the Strandfontein Sports Complex were on Wednesday transported to a Melkbosstrand centre for testing and quarantine.

This after a person who had previously stayed at the shelter had tested positive for the coronavirus.

The group was, however, returned to Strandfontein later that same day. It is unclear whether the person who tested positive for Covid-19 had contracted the virus at the shelter or after having left.

More than 1 600 homeless people across Cape Town had been placed in the Strandfontein temporary shelter before the lockdown came into effect.

Weeks into the lockdown and amid reports of ill-treatment of homeless people, safety and health concerns, the City was in the process of finalising its closure.

Three buses loading homeless people at Strandfontein Sport Complex. Photographer: Ayanda Ndamane African News Agency/ANA

Michael Mhambi, who stayed at the site said: “Some people left yesterday (Wednesday), going to shelters and back to the streets.

“We are about 176 homeless people left at the site because we didn’t agree with going back to the streets or going to the shelters.

“We demand to be taken to the Culemborg safe space and the City doesn’t want that because they say the site is not ready yet. We even offered to sleep outside the site until it’s finished, which will be on May 31.”

Of those still at the site, more than 200 remained in the tents, said Michael Clements, of the Strandfontein Homeless Action Committee.

“Lawyers for Human Rights had been representing the Strandfontein Homeless Action Committee and its members (other residents of the camp) in a case against the City of Cape Town for trampling on their rights to be consulted about the next step post closure of the site.”

He said that about 130 people left the site for Melkbosstrand yesterday.

SA Human Rights Commissioner Chris Nissen said he had been disheartened by what had been taking place at the site.

“I have supported the municipality that said we need to have a place where we can shelter the homeless people. But now, people are back on the streets. Some people have been taken to other places, other centres.

“I understand the City couldn’t provide a 5-star hotel. It doesn’t matter where people live, it’s about having their dignity protected,” he said.

Some homeless people have opted to return to the streets and others have been taken to alternative centres and shelters.

Last week, a group of homeless people had chosen to return to the streets of the CBD, Woodstock, Sea Point and Table View, where they had previously been. However, they were told they would not be permitted to leave following the positive case of Covid-19 by one of the people in the same tent.

Executive director for safety and security Richard Bosman said: “In keeping with the City’s efforts to ensure the well-being of the homeless at Strandfontein, space was made available for those who had come into close contact with the Covid-19 case linked to Strandfontein.”

Bosman said “the court ruling between the Strandfontein Homeless Action Committee versus the City concluded on Thursday, and ordered that the homeless people are to be moved to the prepared smaller shelters”.

“Unfortunately, the homeless had refused to leave the Strandfontein temporary emergency accommodation when the transport arrived.”

He added: “However, they reluctantly agreed and were taken to the facility in the late evening. Unfortunately they then refused to leave the bus once at the site, even though arrangements were made at which point the bus returned with them to Strandfontein.”

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