Pretoria - The only municipal-owned shelter for the homeless in the city centre has been going to the dogs as it goes into its fourth month without any form of management.
No 2 Struben Shelter is housed in a dilapidated building, overcrowded and its flooded toilets infested with worms. Drug use and drug-resistant TB strains have become a reality for the homeless who rely on it as a place for refuge.
Tebogo Mpufane, of the Tshwane Homelessness Forum and Kopano Manyano God the Founder Centre for the Homeless, said since the end of June the shelter had been left to decay.
He said the non-profit organisation tasked to temporarily manage it did not have its contract renewed when it came to an end.
Mpufane said as a former resident of the shelter, he was dismayed at its current state.
“There is very little security. Small children wander aimlessly around and this place, which was meant to be a safe haven for the homeless, has now become a hub for drug users," he said.
“Residents are battling with the scourge of TB. Used condoms and wrappers lie all over and worms come out of the showers. It is just a mess,” Mpufane said.
He said they became aware of the state of the shelter when they conducted a visit with some of their beneficiaries.
Despite attempts by various organisations to intervene and get the City to assist, they alleged there had been no assistance to date. “We need representatives to get out of their air-conditioned offices and witness the reality that homeless people of the third largest metropolitan area are living under,” Mpufane added.
Acting chairperson of the Tshwane Homelessness Forum and member of the Tshwane Leadership Foundation, Wayne Renkin, said even though the City was the first to create a policy dealing with homelessness, implementation had been slow.
Renkin said the Struben Shelter was only meant to cater for 150 persons, but was buckling under the strain of housing close to 800 residents.
The stakeholders said while the organisations commended the City for food hand-out initiatives, those only served to “put a plaster on a much bigger problem”.
Renkin said they had tried in vain to get the City to let the organisations make use of some of the abandoned buildings or allocate land for their use, but none of this had come to fruition.
“As a collective, we have said time and time again 'give us the building or land and we will source the funds to put in what is needed', but our pleas have fallen on deaf ears,” he said.
He added the biggest problem strangling any chance for the homeless was because there was no budget for them.
Renkin said if anything needed attention now more than ever it was for structures to be made available, for metro police to stop dumping people at the already strained shelter and less harassment.
“Unless management is elected to take care of Struben Shelter, that place will not survive. And to be honest, I don’t think the government knows how to manage shelters. We can give our suggestions if they just meet us halfway,” he said.
Municipal spokesperson Lindela Mashigo said the City would look into the administrator claims.
Mashigo said the City was startled that organisations that were partners in remedying the situation at the centre could make such allegations. "We have put in place a structure that in the meantime addresses the function of an administrator. It is in the form of a residents' committee that runs the affairs of the centre. We'll now look into the other allegations raised."