Political analyst Tinyiko Maluleke says it is shameful that it took the coronavirus for government to remember that there are homeless people, as well as those without water.

He was responding to government’s lockdown measures, which has seen homeless people placed in temporary shelters across the country in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Government has also been providing tanks for people without water, especially in rural areas and informal settlements.

Political analyst Tinyiko Maluleke says it is worrying that government has been re-active in providing the basic services it should have provided on a regular basis.

“I suppose if we stretch our minds we could see these government interventions for the homeless, the rural and the poor as positive, but actually it’s a shame. It’s a shame that we had to wait for coronavirus before our government could think of buying Jojo tanks for the poor people without water in rural areas. It’s a shame that we had to wait for coronavirus for government to begin to think about the homeless people in our city and try to do something about their situation. I think it’s a crying shame,” says Maluleke.

The political fundi also warns those who are suddenly under government’s care, not to get too comfortable.

Happy to be off the streets

Despite the warning however, some of the 125 homeless people being housed at a Community Hall in Kempton Park, in Ekurhuleni, are just happy to be off the streets for now, even if their new-found comfort may be short-lived.

In Gatueng, Acting Social Development MEC, Panyaza Lesufi, has been heading the project of housing and feeding the homeless. Lesufi says government is working on a number of options such as reconnecting them with their families, doing a skills audit, helping them find jobs and rehabilitating those with a drugs problem.

Some of the homeless people say they’ve already been engaged by social workers on the kind of assistance they require. However, if these efforts do not yield results, they are facing a strong possibility of again having to fend for themselves on the streets.

“It’s given, it’s obvious, there’s no other, we’ll have to go back to the streets.”

“I don’t want to go back to the streets because it’s dangerous, so we need help to get a better place to stay.”

“They should make a plan because once we leave this place we’re going back to suffering,” say some of the homeless people.

Concern over withdrawals

The Department of Social Development in North West says while it’s pulled out all the stops to accommodate over 110 homeless people across the province, it remains concerned about withdrawals among people who are suffering from substance abuse.

The department has sheltered homeless people in three district municipalities to avert the spread of COVID-19.

The department says the Dr Ruth Segomotsi Mompati is the only district without homeless people.

Meanwhile, some of the homeless people seeking jobs are losing hope as their attempts have been shuttered by the coronavirus pandemic.

Timeline graph of South Africa’s COVID-19 confirmed cases:

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