For many homeless people in Brits and surrounding areas, it is the first time in years that they have a bed to sleep in, warm meals three times a day, ablution facilities and even new clothes! And all this as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak and lockdown regulations.
The Madibeng municipality, on government’s instruction to get the homeless off the streets, opened a homeless shelter at the Primindia Community Hall early in April and for most of them it is a luxurious haven.
“I have been living in the Brits streets without bedding or food for the past six months. I am very happy here. I even have new clothes,” 26-year-old Simon told Kormorant.
Willie (63) has been living on the streets in Brits for many years. “I usually sleep on the lawn of the municipal clinic or under the outside roof if it rains. The police picked me up there and brought me here. It is very nice here. The only problem I have is that I am not allowed to go out to get exercise,” he says.
“We live like kings,” another ‘guest’ at the shelter said. “We can shower, we get good food, a warm bed and even clothes. I like living here!”
“In fact they have five meals a day,” Madibeng mayor Jostine Mothibe laughs. “We have wonderful sponsors who are making this possible.”
Sibanye Stillwater mine donated mattresses and blankets for the shelter and SASSA donated toiletries and more blankets. Shops in Tom Street have donated food, as did several churches in the area. Sasko donates bread. The shelter has received a fridge from a church to use during the lockdown period.
Pick n Pay Brits has donated vouchers for food to the value of R20 000. “This enables us to feed them healthy food. We are also receiving clothes from a person in Hartbeespoort that we give to the homeless people at the shelter.” Currently only 12 people live at the shelter but numbers vary as people come and go.
The shelter also has a professional nurse on site that looks after the occupants’ health.
“We must however, realise that we have to consider what will happen to them once the lockdown is lifted. During this time, we are interviewing the people at the shelter to determine what skills they have. We have already found a job for one person. We are also assisting those who do not have identity documents and have spoken to the department of housing re applications for RDP houses,” Mothibe says.
In the meantime, this shelter is a haven for the homeless. As one said: “We are very very happy here. I don’t want to leave…”