Finding Solutions for Homeless People

Homeless people have been severely affected by the lockdown imposed in response to Covid-19. As the pandemic pummels the economy, so more people are rendered homeless through unemployment. Sam Vos, director of U-Turn, an organisation supporting homeless people with skills training, said he had seen the demand for assistance increase sevenfold. Vos said that 30% of U-Turn’s self-generated income had fallen away during the crisis, but many companies had made donations in cash and kind, which helped to feed homeless people and cover salaries at some organisations.

In Cape Town, the Strandfontein Temporary Emergency Shelter erected by the City at a cost of well over R30 million was a well-meaning but ultimately ill-conceived intervention. It was set up to accommodate 1 500 people and provide meals, hygiene packs, ablution facilities, medical assistance, and isolation tents for people with tuberculosis. However, women, men, transgender people, the elderly, pregnant women, drug users, gang members and people with mental health disorders were accommodated in close proximity, and a rape was reported. Doctors Without Borders called for the phased decommissioning of the overcrowded camp, suggesting that smaller, community-based shelters would better meet the needs of homeless people – a vital lesson for future interventions.

In Johannesburg, the City of Johannesburg and the Gauteng Department of Social Development (DSD) worked together to house homeless people during the lockdown period, moving them to various recreational centres across the city, as well as 30 schools with hostel facilities. Around 1 800 of the 15 000 homeless in Johannesburg were housed within the first month of lockdown. In Tshwane, the Caledonian Stadium in Pretoria housed around 2 000 homeless people, but 200 decamped to a temporary shelter in April when

overcrowding and food shortages became an issue. Mary Gillett-de Klerk of the Johannesburg Organisation of Services to the Homeless said that the crisis has led the DSD in Gauteng to start formulating a provincial policy on homelessness.

Source: Trialogue Business in Society Handbook 2020