Commuters passing Luthuli House, the ANC headquarters on Pixley Seme Street, were shocked when they stumbled upon the body of a homeless man lying on the pavement on Monday morning. The unknown man, who is believed to be in his forties, was last seen looking sick the previous night, walking near Helen Joseph Street, where he lived with other people near the provincial offices of the departments of health and human settlements.
The man died after being subjected to cold and wet weather conditions the previous night.
The temperature in Joburg had dropped to a low of 6ºC with a light drizzle yesterday morning, shortly before he was found dead.
Johannesburg Organisation of Services to the Homeless chief executive Mary Gillett-De Klerk said homelessness was on the rise in Joburg, with many people coming from outside Gauteng and others from neighbouring countries to seek greener pastures. But the hardships they encountered in the City of Gold pushed them to live on the streets.
Gillett-De Klerk said many NPOs that worked with the homeless were not getting enough support from the government.
“There are no accurate statistics for the greater Joburg area for homelessness, but the general rule of thumb is that at least 1% of the population is homeless. The general figure for the population of greater Joburg is 11 million.
“The government is not doing nearly enough. At all levels it needs to partner with organisations and support them to carry out this work. In Joburg we need many more overnight shelters with programmes that enable the homeless to exit the streets sustainably,” Gillett-De Klerk said.
It is unclear where the deceased man came from, although those who knew him said he had been living in Joburg for many years.
Katlego Mosea, 19, who is also homeless, said he had seen the deceased walking slowly as if he was out of breath on Sunday.
“I saw him yesterday (Sunday). He was not well at all. I went to check on him. He was still alive, but there was a strange smell. I think it was faeces. I asked him why he was sitting here. He couldn’t talk. I left him to buy a cigarette, when I came back I saw people giving him food. He didn’t eat,” he said.
Mosea was sad to hear of the man’s death.
“I saw the police next to where I had left him. I was told he had passed away. I wish there were more shelters for people like us,” Mosea said.
A security guard, who asked not to be named, said he saw the deceased when he arrived for work yesterday morning.
“He was not feeling well yesterday. When I arrived today, I was told that he had died,” the guard said.
Joburg police spokesperson Constable Constance Lelimo said they were informed about the deceased at 7am, and paramedics declared him dead when they arrived.