Nelson Mandela Bay homeless to be accommodated in various venues

BLEAK SITUATION: Homeless people in Nelson Mandela Bay are to be moved to various centres in the metro
BLEAK SITUATION: Homeless people in Nelson Mandela Bay are to be moved to various centres in the metro

The homeless in Nelson Mandela Bay are to be moved to various venues for the next 21 days.

A lockdown, proclaimed by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday, is a means to curb the spread of the new coronavirus, Covid-19, which is sweeping the globe, with more than 900 cases recorded in SA since March 5.

The Herald spoke to homeless people to see if they were aware of the virus and their plans for the lockdown.

Sizwe Bhenjumane, 27, said he had been living on the streets for more than 12 years and had nowhere to go.

He had never known his mother and had been raised by different families. As a result of ill treatment he had decided to live on the streets.

“I hear people talking about this coronavirus on the streets but I don’t know what exactly it does.

“I’ve also heard about the lockdown and I am afraid as I don’t have parents, I don’t have a home, so for me this is going to be a difficult situation,” he said.

When asked if he was aware that soldiers would patrol the streets making sure that everyone was indoors, Bhenjumane broke down and pleaded for shelter for him and his friends.

“We are the least important people in the country, that I know, but it would be helpful for us if the government could just provide shelter and food for us during the lockdown.

“We don’t have homes, and for us to eat we need to be on the streets begging. If there is no-one going to be allowed and businesses close, we will die of hunger,” he said.

Anoxolo Ntsokwana, 17, said if he had a home he would go there.

“I’m worried with the lockdown. Where are we going to get food?” he said.

Ntsokwana said he had heard that a shelter might be provided for the homeless, but no official had come to speak to them yet.

“I’m not even sure what the virus is about and what is going to happen during the lockdown, but if we have no place and no food, we will die before the virus can kill us,” he said.

Another homeless man, Nkosivumile Nyamende, from Kwazakhele, said if nothing was being done for the homeless he would have to go back home.

“I live on the streets, and know nothing about this virus. I don’t know with this lockdown where they will chase the homeless to but I will try to go back home and hopefully they will accept me.”

He said this would be the worst 21 days in the lives of homeless people, especially those who had nowhere to go.

“I feel for my brothers. I hope something can be done about them.”

Verhde Erkers, 31, from Gelvandale, said he knew nothing about the virus but he would be forced to go back home.

“I don’t know how I’m going to survive, but rather than dying on the streets let me rather go and die at home,” he said.

He said a shelter “rumour” was spreading, but days had gone by and no official had come.

“I think they will provide shelter for the homeless in Gauteng, but no-one really cares about us here in Port Elizabeth,” he said.

Nelson Mandela Bay Municipal spokesperson Kupido Baron said contingency plans were in place and being implementing.

He said Walmer Town Hall, Daku Hall, NU2 Motherwell and Babs Madlakane Hall had been identified as the venues where homeless people will be moved to. Hoza Hall will also be used if needed.

“We are working with several partners to address the situation since we are in a race against time.

“Since the regulations were issued late yesterday afternoon, we might not have all the homeless people in a shelter by the time the lockdown starts,” Baron said.

He said the municipality had set itself the deadline that by Friday night homeless people should be moved to the relevant facilities.

Department of social development spokesperson Gcobani Maswana said there were resolutions in place in relation to the homeless.

He said all local municipalities were expected to make details available of facilities or venues to accommodate people living on the streets.

“Sassa will make food available for the people who will be kept at municipal centres and social development should give details of drop-off centres for street children in local municipalities,” he said.