WATCH: Strandfontein homeless shelter described as a 'concentration camp'

By Theolin Tembo Time of article published Apr 9, 2020

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Cape Town - "We are forced here. It's like a concentration camp."

This is how Tracey van der Pool described the conditions at the Strandfontein sports complex which is being used by the City of Cape Town as a homeless shelter for the duration of the Covid-19 national lockdown.

The City provided an opportunity to visit the site where Mayco members JP Smith and Zahid Badroodien and mayor Dan Plato were in attendance.

However, some of the responses of the homeless showed many were unimpressed by their living conditions.

"We haven't eaten the whole day," her daughter Nikita van der Pool said.

Tracey and Nikita were frustrated by the situation, claiming they were forced to get on a bus and taken to the site.

"I can't do this. I've got kids outside here. Do you understand my point? How can they keep us here like dogs? We're sleeping on the f*****g floors," Tracey said.

"They haven't even given us toilet paper. Go to the toilets, there is no toilet paper, there is nothing," Nikita added.

[WARNING: Video contains strong language]

Homeless people at the Strandfontein temporary shelter claim that they were being forced to be there. Video:Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)

"I don't have to like this, I'm not an animal," a woman was recorded saying about life in the shelter.

"They pepper spray us, and it is not right," another added.

Badroodien attempted to interject and explain to the media "that is not true", but before he could finish, he was cut off by a woman in the shelter.

"You weren't here," she argued. "You weren't here sir... You talking s**t. From day one that we here, we worried about the coronavirus, not one single person was tested for coronavirus. Not one, not one of us."

Badroodien said while it was true not a single person in the shelter had been tested for the coronavirus, "we know that the testing for the coronavirus has very specific requirements".

[WARNING: Video contains strong language]

Homeless people at the Strandfontein temporary shelter claim that they were being forced to be there. Video:Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)

Plato issued a statement after the visit as "I want to make this 100% clear to dispel all the misinformation that is going around". 

"This site was set up under the instruction of the National Disaster Regulations published by the national government. We have had to act quickly in terms of these regulations and under this unprecedented time, we have had to adapt our plans to keep up with the requirements expected of municipalities."

He referred to the Covid-19 National Disaster regulations, which had been published ahead of the lockdown, which states:

11D. (1) For the period of the declaration of a lockdown, a person refusing to be evacuated from any place subject to lockdown, may be evacuated by an enforcement officer to a temporary shelter, if such action is necessary for the preservation of life.

(2)  The state shall identify—

(a) temporary shelters that meet the necessary hygiene standards for homeless people; and

(b) temporary sites for quarantine and self-isolation that meet the necessary hygiene standards for people who cannot isolate or quarantine in their homes.

Homeless people are angry about their treatment at the Strandfontein sports complex which is being used by the City of Cape Town as a shelter. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)

Plato said he had visited the site to "inspect the various services" and ensure "our homeless community is well taken care of while at this facility".

"We are providing medical services, shelter, meals, ablution and shower facilities. When entering the site, our homeless community is screened by medical professionals and social workers so that we can respond appropriately to their medical and psychosocial needs." 

Plato also said the reason the City could not use other stadiums and community halls was "these sites have already been identified for temporary hospitals, and isolation/quarantine facilities". 

"These are necessary to ensure that we are prepared as the National Minister of Health, Dr Mkhize has warned, of the ‘calm before the devastating storm’. We will need these spaces as emergency hospital sites."

The City of Cape Town identified a range of possible sites, and Plato said the Strandfontein sports complex enabled the City to move quickly as it had a large perimeter fence, existing infrastructure with water and electricity available, and was big enough to accommodate 2 000 homeless persons on one site, making the delivery or of services for the homeless far more efficient.

"I want to call on those political opportunists now, please stop politicising a very serious situation. We are doing whatever we can to ensure that our services continue, that we provide shelter for those who need it, and we are doing it with little to no warning ahead of time. Municipalities across the country are in the same boat, and we are all doing our best to make this work," Plato said.

"Last, I want to make a call to our residents, NGOs and private business. If you can donate mattresses that would be greatly appreciated." 

After the lockdown, all the temporary emergency accommodation sites, including the one here at Strandfontein, will be restored to their original function, he added.

Homeless man at the Strandfontein shelter trying to break down the fence, as they are frustrated for being on lockdown at this facility. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)

Cape Argus

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