A group of homeless people surviving through recycling in Centurion, Gauteng, has called on the City of Tshwane and the government to supply them with food and shelter. The recyclers live in plastic makeshift shacks at the banks of Hennops River.

They say they can’t put food on the table anymore as their businesses have been severely affected by the country’s three-week lockdown that’s in place in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

“I came here to do some recycling work. But now we are able to do anything because of coronavirus. We don’t have anything to eat. Our children back home are also suffering. We live in plastic shelters. When it rains life is tough but when there’s no rain we can survive and take care of our families.”

“Mr President, we have a problem. This corona has shut down our jobs and now what about our families back home? We normally earn a living out of what we sell from the recycling and send something for our families. Right now our hands are tight.”

In the video below, the recyclers urge government to relax some of the lockdown rules:

Although most of them have little knowledge about COVID-19, they are concerned about a possible outbreak in their area.

“We only heard about it through the radio. We don’t even know whether we have it or not. We call upon the government to come and conduct tests on us,” says one homeless person. “This coronavirus is giving us problems. Some us, we do not have partners. We are breadwinners ourselves, and we are here to make end meets, so using our own hands.”

The group wants government to regulate their business. The recyclers say this will make it easy for them to access the markets.

A local resident Steven van der Westhuizen, who is trying to help them, is appealing to government and business to intervene.

“Eh, so they’re relying on other NGOs to bring them food and the Indian Welfare Society from Laudium to give them food for the last two days, but before that they had nothing. On a normal day, there’s about 130 in this compound, but now the municipality says that they gonna try and bring relief for them. But it’s not a given because some of them come from Lesotho. They are not from South Africa, so it makes it difficult,” says Van Der Westhuizen.

Free State rehabilitates homeless people

Free State government says more than 100 people taken from the streets of Bloemfontein for the duration of the 21-day lockdown will be rehabilitated, taken to school and reunited with their families once the lockdown is lifted.

News some of them have welcomed with open arms.

“I’m so glad that I don’t use drugs anymore because when in the street we are using drugs and we get addicted,” says one.

“Thank you very much. These people they are helping us because here we are getting too much experience. We can wash and eat everyday. We can do everything we want here,” another one adds.

Below is a full report on this story: