A woman sweeps the road as a group of homeless people sleep on the pavement. Picture: Itumeleng English/ ANA pictures
A woman sweeps the road as a group of homeless people sleep on the pavement. Picture: Itumeleng English/ ANA pictures
Durban - A multisectoral task team has been established by the eThekwini Municipality to find solutions to homelessness in the city.

Members of the team include representatives from the municipality, faith-based organisations, business, NGOs, the private sector and academia.

It was established at a meeting hosted by deputy mayor Fawzia Peer at the Durban City Hall yesterday.

Deputy mayor Fawzia Peer on why the eThekwini Municipality has taken the step to establish multi-sectoral task team to tackle homelessness in the city. Video: Nosipho Mngoma

Peer said while many cities in the world battled with homelessness, eThekwini was lagging behind in terms of planning for the increasing population in the city.

Groups of homeless people, especially those addicted to whoonga, were not only living in the CBD but as far away as Verulam and Tongaat.

“The city cannot afford to not do anything as there are consequences and spiralling effects for socio-economic development,” Peer said.

She said part of the team’s work would be to look at how the city could better regulate shelters to avoid the “unscrupulous, exploitative practices that thrive on the vulnerability of homeless people” seen at some privately-run organisations.

Outlining some of the findings of a study by the city, Nomsa Shembe, a manager in the municipality’s Safer Cities Unit, said 80% of the homeless in Durban were male.

There were about an equal number - almost 2000 - who lived on the street and those who lived in shelters.

Another study had found that 90% of them were drug users.

“These people are our brothers and sisters, but they are encroaching on our rights and so people see them as a problem.

That they had the same rights as any other person was what Sikho Msomi of the Umbilo Business Forum urged the municipality to remember when formulating the action plan to deal with homelessness.

Raymond Perrier, director at the Denis Hurley Centre, said the first indication of the city’s commitment to the plan would be to stop Metro Police and security from harassing the homeless and burning their belongings.

He also called on the city to take more active steps in establishing subsidised drop in centres, like the one run by the Denis Hurley Centre, offering the homeless food, health and social work services.

Msomi and Perrier were elected to the 12-member task team.

The Mercury