Durban - As the police continued their clean-up operations at crime hot spots near the M4 bridge, moving hundreds of homeless people yesterday, the city said it had several programmes to tackle the issue of homelessness.

Yesterday morning, at least 400 people were seen standing at the side of the Che Guevara off-ramp from the M4.

The group was dispersed by the Umbilo SAPS Visible Policing Unit and moved further up into Che Guevara Road and surrounding areas.

Law enforcement officials have been carrying out operations to move homeless people living under the M4 bridge and have stepped up patrols in the vicinity.

This comes after a number of muggings and smash-and-grab attacks in recent weeks.

Berea Community Policing chairwoman Nicky Burke questioned where the displaced homeless people would go.

“We have seen this happen previously where operations of this nature were held. I think we need to step back and ask ourselves: 'Where do they go?'” she said.

“Also, what workable solution is being created by the city to deal with this situation? We have no doubt that they will move into the suburbs until they are removed from there.

“It is a very serious and sad situation that needs to be dealt with holistically,” she said.

The chairman of the city’s homeless task team, Raymond Perrier, said there was no magic solution to the problem.

“They are smoked out from one place and go to another,” he said.

“They just keep moving from place to place. The reality is there is a large number of people who are not ready for rehabilitation. This situation will not go away.”

He added that one solution may be for the city to provide the group with a permanent, fenced-off area in which they could stay.

“In other cities, this is the route they have taken. If you do this, they pose a lesser danger to themselves and society. They are also contained,” he said.

City spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said the municipality had a programme to address the issue of homelessness and related social ills by way of a multi-sectoral approach.

He said this allowed the municipality to engage all relevant stakeholders to develop an integrated programme, including engaging the homeless on their plight.

“Currently, we have three programmes under the banner of Qalakabusha that include the profiling of homeless people, providing psycho-­social support, documentation, reunification, shelter and a drop-in centre. The municipality has also launched a multisectoral task team that will look at what can be done to address the issue of homelessness,” he said.

Mayisela added that the city planned to document all homeless people.

“We also want to educate them about their rights and record the number of homeless people. We need to capacitate the police on how to deal with those homeless people who have been identified,” he said.

Mayisela said the programme to address homelessness was being championed by deputy mayor Fawzia Peer.

The Mercury