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Life for eThekwini homeless more bearable amid COVID-19 lockdown

The city has made available temporary shelters and health screening for those living on the streets.

Raymond Perrier of the Denis Hurley Centre, an organisation which looks after the homeless, said the lockdown had forced the eThekwini Municipality to do in six days what it could not do for many years. Picture: Sethembiso Zulu/EWN

DURBAN - While the national lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus has disturbed ordinary life for many South Africans, it’s made things a little more bearable for close to 2,000 homeless people in eThekwini.

The city has made available temporary shelters and health screening for those living on the streets.

Residents and non-profit organisations have joined in, raising funds, donating blankets and preparing hot meals for the homeless.

WATCH: eThekwini's homeless unhappy with municipality’s treatment amidst lockdown

Ethekwini Deputy Mayor Belinda Scott said they had now earned the trust of the homeless and built strong relationships with local non-profit organisations.

“So, when you’ve got a centre like the Denis Hurley Centre and other active NGOs coming on board, it takes a huge amount of pressure off the government.”

Raymond Perrier of the Denis Hurley Centre, an organisation which looks after the homeless, said the lockdown had forced the municipality to do in six days what it could not do for many years.

“I think a crisis like this has, again, helped us understand that we can’t ignore the vulnerable, we can’t treat them as litter, they are part of our city.”

Shane Mqadi, a homeless man whose video went viral after he complained about the way the municipality was treating the homeless, said their living conditions had improved.

“I want to say thank you all those who have put in a hand in helping us and at the same time as well, please don’t despise us when you see us after these 21 days or coronavirus.”

Linda Morrison from the city’s task team for homeless people said they have also received generous support from the religious sector, which has ensured that the shelters have enough meals for the homeless for the duration of the lockdown.

Morrison said a Christian organisation was responsible for breakfast, a Hindi organisation served lunch, a Muslim organisation prepared dinner and the local Jewish community took care of the volunteers on site.

For official information about COVID-19 from the Department of Health, please click here.

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