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Homeless drug users left vulnerable in COVID-19 lockdown - says expert

Drug expert Monique Marks said she has observed that in many cities across the country – except for Durban and Pretoria – it has become difficult for indigent drug users to access the medical care they need.

Bluetooth drugs. Picture: Thomas Holder/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG – Drug use expert Monique Marks said the national lockdown due to COVID-19 has provided an opportunity to assist homeless drug users with healthcare services.

However, she has observed that in many cities across the country – except for Durban and Pretoria – it has become difficult for indigent drug users to access the medical care they need.

She’s appealed for greater coordination between the non-governmental organisations sector and government.

Marks, who is the director of the urban features centre at the Durban University of Technology, said homeless drug users under the national lockdown have become more vulnerable.

“Their systems are compromised from years of drug use, but also they are stigmatised and that means their access to services – both health and social welfare – have been limited and now under COVID it becomes more difficult for them to access these services.”

She said eThekwini has been exemplary in assisting the homeless as the City has successfully managed to shelter about two thousand drug users – ensured partnerships with NGOs and provided health care to drug users facing withdrawal symptoms.
Marks said other cities can learn from this.

“A number of safe sites were established where homeless people could stay.”

She also said involving the police in the early stages of assisting the homeless has ensured that law and order are maintained at shelters established by the City.

WATCH: eThekwini homeless earlier in the national lockdown