Durban’s homeless locked down in tents across city
The decision was reached hours before the lockdown on Thursday after three days of negotiations with various stakeholders.
The eThekwini Task Team on Homelessness in partnership with the City said the Durban Exhibition Centre would be used as a central screening point before the homeless were taken to the lockdown facilities.
Director of the Denis Hurley Centre and chairperson of the task team, Raymond Perrier, said the team comprised non-profit organisations, municipal officials and deputy mayor Belinda Scott.
He said officials from the health and social development departments would conduct the screening.
Perrier said once people had completed the screening, they would be given wrist bands to determine which lockdown venue they would be going to.
“The point of the screening is to get an understanding of who the person is, where they are from and what their situation is, and to assess them for various illnesses,” he said.
He said if people were suspected of being infected with Covid-19 during the screening, they would be taken directly to the hospital. “If someone is sick in other ways, they will be allocated to a venue for homeless people with greater needs."
In keeping with the government regulations, men would be separated from women and children and each venue would house 100 people, he said.
Perrier said the lockdown venues would have an indoor space to protect people from the weather at night and a contained outdoor space.
“The reason for the tents is that we don’t want to lock people up in a building for 21 days. They will go mad,” he said. He added a feeding model was created by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and small businesses from the Durban Business Development Unit.
“Small businesses will provide cooked food every day and two NGOs have committed to providing porridge and an evening snack daily,” Perrier said.
Metro police and the SAPS would be providing security at all the venues.
Perrier said the City had procured mattresses and blankets, and toilets and showers would be provided.
“We are aiming to do this in a way which is respectful of the needs of the homeless, which would protect them from catching the coronavirus and prevent them from passing on the virus to each other or to the wider population.”
A young homeless man, along with about 60 other men who live at a shelter in Smith Street, said they were caught off guard on Tuesday when they were told the shelter would be closed during the lockdown.
He said he was fortunate to be part of a small group who were taken in by the Vuleka Conference Centre in Botha’s Hill.
Another homeless man, who introduced himself as Bongani, said he slept under a bridge in Clairwood and the outbreak had made living on the street difficult.
Bongani said people were no longer willing to give tips because of the virus.
“The only income I have is begging at the robots. I am not eating, I have nothing. I have to salvage for food from the bins,” he said.