The temporary camp set up for the homeless at Lyttelton sports grounds in Centurion. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA)
The temporary camp set up for the homeless at Lyttelton sports grounds in Centurion. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA)

Long term plan to house Tshwane’s homeless after Covid-19

By Sakhile Ndlazi Time of article published Sep 16, 2020

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THOSE working with the homeless in Tshwane have welcomed plans to rehouse those living in temporary shelters post the Covid-19 lockdown.

Thousands of people have been accommodated in various temporary facilities across the city since the start of lockdown in March but as it eases, the provincial government has promised this group of vulnerable people will be catered for as lockdown is eased.

The number of homeless was initially underestimated, and many resisted the tented accommodation provided and returned to makeshift homes in some of the city’s parks and open spaces.

The Gauteng MEC for Social Development, Dr Nomathembu Mokgethi, announced plans to implement a new strategy to deal with those who are without homes post-lockdown.

She said Gauteng was looking into sustainable long-term shelters for vagrants and others who had previously lived on the streets.

Representatives of various government departments have been visiting shelters to explore sustainable strategies for this group beyond the lockdown. This includes trying to reunite them with families and supporting NGOs in the sector.

For activist groups and NGOs at the forefront of the cause for years, Mokgethi’s promise is music to their ears.

Tebogo Mpufane, of the Kopano Manyano God the Founder Centre for the Homeless, said things were finally looking up after the department committed to fund numerous NGOs to take care of the homeless.

“This is the first time in the history of social development that something like this happens,” he said.

Mpufane said they were had been asked to earmark spaces and buildings to shelter the homeless, and they had visited some options around Tshwane. “There is light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.

For some, the lockdown and temporary shelters has offered an opportunity for change.

Phillip Nonki, who has been at the Pretoria West Rugby Stadium since the lockdown started said he had kicked the heroin habit that had made him homeless a decade ago.

It was, by far, the best thing that could have happened to him and other users, he said.

Not everyone, however, thinks they will do better in shelters the state has provided; some said it was confinement, forced living and left them dependent on handouts.

Others said what they were being offered was scarcely better. “I am concerned the new accommodation could become breeding grounds for infection,” said one homeless person, who asked not to benamed.

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