Tebogo Mpufane from Centurion Haven of Hope teaching homeless people about Covid - 19 at Marikane informal settlement in Centurion. Picture: Bongani Shilubane/African News Agency (ANA)
Tebogo Mpufane from Centurion Haven of Hope teaching homeless people about Covid - 19 at Marikane informal settlement in Centurion. Picture: Bongani Shilubane/African News Agency (ANA)

More than enough capacity to house homeless people, said Social Development department

By Roland Mpofu Time of article published Mar 29, 2020

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The saying “beggars can’t be choosers” holds true when it is said by a homeless man who has been forced to move in a shelter due to the Covid-19 national lockdown.

Occey Accom, 35, was one of the homeless people who were relocated to shelters where they will be temporarily staying during the 21-day lockdown.

Accom, who has been homeless for the past six months due to substance abuse by his own admission, said he had no choice but to obey the lockdown measures.

“I guess beggars can’t be choosers. We are on the streets anyway. This will provide shelter for us. The 21 days would be hard for us being homeless.

“We are forced to be inside a building for 21 days. That is gonna be tough, but if it means keeping us away from the disease, then that is the way to go,” said Accom.

Accom, a BCom graduate from Howard College in KwaZulu-Natal, said he would take this time to reflect and “clean-up” his life.

“I lost everything because of substance abuse. I was married with kids and working as a supervisor in one of the leading banks. So I hope this lockdown will bring positive results for me to come out here as a changed person”.

25-year-old Camryn Sauders was accommodated at Kotze Street Overnight Shelter in Joburg on Thursday evening, just hours before the lockdown. He said he and his friends were chased away from Parktown Boys High School, said to be one of the earmarked accommodations in Gauteng.

“When we arrived at Parktown Boys School, they didn’t know anything about it. That is why we had to come to this centre. We are scared of this coronavirus. It is serious bra,” quipped Sauders.

The acting Gauteng MEC for Social Development, Panyaza Lesufi, was at Kotze Street on Thursday evening to oversee the process of relocation of the homeless people to shelters where they will staying during the 21-day lockdown.

Lesufi said the purpose of his visit was to witness the state of readiness to accommodate the identified homeless people who ordinarily stay in open places, and thus, need to be sheltered properly during this difficult period.

Lesufi said the department was doing the relocation in a humane manner, and no one was being forced to move into shelters.

“I know I have been attacked and accused of not forcing people to move, but my philosophy is that we make the facilities available for people to access them. I would rather have people complaining that there are no facilities rather than have people say we are forced to go where we don’t want to.

“We have a huge capacity, but because of social distancing, we had to reduce. They have just given me the list of 242 places across Johannesburg. We are converting all the recreation centres to accommodate these people,” said Lesufi.

Acting spokesperson for the department Steve Mabona said there were around 15000 homeless people around Joburg and quite a number of them remained unplaced.

Sunday Independent

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