Action plan for homeless

The first shelters set up by the City in the city centre, where homeless people are being sheltered and checked for symptoms of Covid-19.

All far-south street people are due to be taken to a shelter by the end of the week.

According to ward councillor Felicity Purchase, the City has been waiting for Minister of Defence Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula to sign off on a site.

“Now we have another site we are working on,” Ms Purchase said.

On Tuesday evening, ward councillor Simon Liell-Cock said he had just had word that the Strandfontein sports complex would be used to house the homeless. It would be done at the City’s expense because the national government had not approved any of the City’s suggested sites.

Preparations to ensure Covid-19 health and safety measures would begin at the site on Wednesday April 1, and the City hoped to have all the homeless accommodated within two days.

Several south peninsula residents and organisations have raised concerns about the homeless. News of the move comes as a relief for Mark Kilbride, of Fish Hoek, whose wife is still recovering from cancer surgery.

“Even normal flu could compromise her health, never mind Covid-19.”

He said he was worried about the homeless who were being fed daily by a church organisation, The Net, at the civic centre.

“Some people would think I am being heartless, but my wife, being high risk, is my primary concern.”

The homeless had been sleeping on the street outside and fighting and drug needles were being found on the streets, he said.

“National lockdown is for everybody’s sake, to prevent exposure to the virus, but the homeless are completely exposed.”

He said while he understood not all homeless were criminals there were bad elements among them.

“It’s quite tragic all round; they are at risk, and yet they are also at risk of passing it on to others.”

The Net is not a registered non-profit, but Carolyn Axmann, who runs it, said its application
was pending, and it was a church- affiliated group giving food to people living on the street.

Ms Axmann said nobody was allowed to sleep at the civic centre where the food was handed out, and everyone who got a meal was asked to help clean up the area and wash their own dishes.

She admitted ablutions were a problem and said she had asked for portaloos.

The homeless had told her they were scared, even of the shelter offered by the City, because they did not know what to expect.

“Some have vanished into caves and up the mountain,” she said.

Mayco member for community and health services Zahid Badroodien said the City was seeking suitable sites to house the homeless during the lockdown.

The search was taking some time after initial sites, touted by the national government, were withdrawn, he said.

“We understand there has been immense interest in this particular issue, and we assure the public that we are doing everything possible to provide safe spaces for our street people during this challenging time.”

At the weekend, the City started moving street people to the first of several temporary shelters – the parking lot next to the City’s Culemborg Safe Space.

Law enforcement officers escorted people to the site where they were screened for Covid-19 symptoms.

Jon Hopkins, of U-Turn, an organisation helping street people, said the homeless were particularly vulnerable to Covid-19 because they had compromised immune systems and few places to wash their hands.

“The greatest threat to us all is overwhelmed health-care facilities. By facing this together and looking after the most vulnerable, we will have a stronger and more caring City during this national emergency, and afterwards,” he said.

The organisation’s Rowen Ravera-Bauer said they had been about to open a branch office in Muizenberg when Covid-19 had hit.

“We will return to that down the line,” she said.

For now, U-Turn is asking for donations of soap and for people to join its emergency appeal online.

The organisation had been pushing for permission from the City to set up micro sites for the homeless until the City’s sites are approved.

Visit for more information about the organisation.