HARSH LIFE: Homelessness is not the result of just one problem, but is often caused by many lifelong problems.

Durban - As the cold front swept across the country at the weekend causing temperatures to plummet and snow to fall, a thought has to be spared for Durban’s homeless people who have to endure the cold this winter.

The Mercury spoke to Thomas Soswa, director of Durban city shelter, The Nest, who said he noticed an increase in people coming into the shelter over the last few days.

“During this cold spell I have noticed an increase of homeless people at The Nest, we have almost reached capacity of 120,” he said.

Soswa said that the main thing that homeless people complained about during the colder days, was that it was harder to get any sort of money from standing on the streets.

“Some of these people have casual day jobs, some are car guards and these cold conditions make it difficult for them to work and get food,” he said.

Due to the rental obligations, the shelter charges a fee for accommodation.

As someone who was also homeless at one stage of his life, Soswa said there is a growing number of homeless South Africans due to the economy.

He called on South Africans, companies and government to step in to help the homeless.

“South Africa has the resources to team up with people and companies like Woolworths and Checkers to donate food to help these people. The government should step in and provide funding or a subsidy to create affordable places for homeless people to sleep," said Soswa.

Raymond Perrier, director of the Denis Hurley Centre said the cold Johannesburg winter has resulted in many more homeless people in Durban.

“People prefer sleeping on the streets of Durban than in Johannesburg because it is not as cold,” said Perrier. 

The centre runs The Nkosinathi Project which provides showers and clean second-hand clothes to help homeless.

“Many people will come and shower at the Denis Hurley Centre just as a way of warming up. But we only have eight showers at the Centre and there have been promises of more (showers) being provided for the past five years. It doesn't help Metro Police and the private security agencies confiscate blankets from the homeless in their attempt at cleaning up the streets.

Mayoral spokesperson Mthunzi Gumede said eThekwini municipality works with different non profit organisations that assist the homeless including soup kitchens, shelters and rehabilitation centres.

Gumede explained that the homeless living on the streets of Durban become drug addicts and programmes like Qalakabusha assist them addicts where they undergo rehabilitation.

“The plan that is in place is to assist the homeless to be independent and not to be homeless. They must be able to work and be skilled,” said Gumede.

The Mercury