Homeless lockdown

Between Monday and Tuesday, 90 homeless people from the Wynberg area were moved to a camp at Strandfontein sport ground for the Covid-19 lockdown.

The City of Cape Town has started moving Wynberg’s homeless to a camp at the Strandfontein sports ground in Mitchell’s Plain – their home for the duration of the Covid-19 lockdown.

The City transported 60 homeless to the site on Monday and a further 30 on Tuesday. Buses moved hundreds of other homeless people across the City from Sunday.

The facility near the False Bay coastline on the Cape Flats is the size of 24 rugby fields.

It’s fenced and will be patrolled by law enforcement day and night. It has toilets, showers and a mobile shop and will accommodate more than 2 000 people.

The homeless are being screened for illnesses upon arrival.

According to a 2015 City survey, there are about 4 000 people who sleep on the streets of Cape and about 2 000 who use night shelters like The Haven in Wynberg.

According to its safety manager, Pius Okitor, some 40-odd homeless people from Wynberg, Constantia, Plumstead and Kenilworth visit for daily meals. But when lockdown started the shelter was feeding much more than that – the largest number was 121 on the last day of March.

Sincethen,numbershave dropped off again, and they’re back down to the original 40 who are now restricted from leaving the facility

Mr Okitor said the shelter had organised board games and soccer matches to ease the cabin fever. “We’re in quarantine, so even going to buy chips or cooldrink in a group of four, we don’t allow
that anymore. Only one person will go.

They’re not allowed to go out unless it’s an emergency.”

Only one of the residents can leave the premises because he is an essential-services worker. The man has to wash his hands and sanitise before he leaves and repeat that drill and change his clothes when he returns.Mr Okitor said The Haven also had its own health-screening measures and they were educating the homeless about Covid-19.

The City is working with services, such as The Haven, to feed and shelter the homeless. On Monday, The Haven gave hot cups of coffee to the homeless waiting in Wynberg for the buses to take them to Strandfontein.

Because of physical distancing, the buses couldn’t carry more than 30 passengers at a time.

Mayoral committee member for community services and health Zahid Badroodien said the Strandfontein camp had a range of medical services, including an isolation tent. Six weatherproof marquees would each house about 300 people – half their capacity to allow for physical distancing. The marquees will have areas for couples, women, men, those who require isolation or medical attention, as well as substance abusers.

Mr Badroodien said the City had at first planned to house the homeless at seven sites across the metro but had decided against that option.

“A lot of resources will be required to ensure the effective management of these locations, and seven small facilities across the city was not ideal, in terms of stretching a very limited capacity.”

Those needing shelter had a range of needs, he said, and included the elderly, the disabled, the mentally ill and those battling substance abuse.

Mr Badroodien said he was aware some Strandfontein residents were unhappy about hundreds of homeless people being moved to their neighbourhood, but the camp was fenced and had tight security, with Metro police and private security guards assisting law enforcement with patrols throughout the day and night.