Pretoria - Destitute old and young people living at Number 2 Struben Street in Marabastad have more questions than answers about their living conditions.
The shelter for the homeless offers accommodation to people, including infants and pregnant women, who have to bear the stench of uncollected waste, blocked drains and filthy toilets while going days without washing.
When the Pretoria News team visited the shelter yesterday, scores of the residents had just eaten their breakfast and were in search of what to do next in the day’s activities.
The shelter, established in 2004, is meant to accommodate 300 people, but it is overflowing with more 550 people.
It is funded by the Gauteng Department of Social Development, which has enlisted the assistance of the NPO Kitso Lesedi, that supports the residents with food and medical supplies.
Besides the filth, the distressed residents complained about crime in the area and drug use.
One of their leaders, Aubrey Lemogang, said the shelter had not been improved in the 10 years he had been living there.
“Despite all the promises we get here almost every month, nothing has happened. There has never been any improvement.
“We don’t have flushing toilets, they don’t get cleaned, and we are subjected to blocked drains every day. Nothing works at this shelter,” he said.
Lemogang said that the only positive thing that came with the shelter was the fact that they received a meal three times a day. However, even that came with its challenges.
“Where do we eat our meals in this dirt? Everywhere we go here, there is a smell. We have nowhere to go to eat, even if we get the food.”
Resident Reneilwe Mabuselahas been living in the shelter for five years.
He said his life was at risk daily. He accused police of bringing drug addicts into the shelter.
“The police bring nyaope addicts to the shelter and they often rob us.
“We sometimes have no water or electricity. Crime here has surged to the roof, and since the municipal strike, we have had no collection of waste,” Mabusela said.
“Women have no privacy here. We are wondering what is next for us because this place can develop a disease at any time. Actually, we would not be surprised if people started falling like flies,” he said.
In 2020, the then MEC for social development, Dr Nomathembu Mokgethi, visited and told them the government had worked out an exit strategy that would see them being relocated to other shelters in the city.
Mokgethi had said the government planned a phased closure of the facility, which would eventually be decommissioned after the lockdown. However, Mabusela said none of this transpired.
He said they were also promised flats to which they would be relocated, but to no avail.
“They (officials) keep coming to us to tell us about their relocation plans. That has never happened, and seems it will never happen,” Mabusela said.