Vagrants get busy

A group of homeless people, who are currently living in a shelter provided by Msunduzi Municipality, have volunteered to assist the City in its clean-up programme.
A group of homeless people, who are currently living in a shelter provided by Msunduzi Municipality, have volunteered to assist the City in its clean-up programme.

A Group of homeless people, who are living in shelters, have volunteered to help in Msunduzi’s clean-up programme.

The youngsters have been seen around Mayor’s Walk cutting grass, picking up litter, sweeping the streets and clearing storm water drainages. The municipality has given them uniforms to wear so that the public does not mistake them for vagrants.

Acting general manager for community services Mbongeni Mathe said the group of about 30 offered their assistance because they wanted to keep busy while the City tries to get them assistance to reclaim their lives.

He said the municipality is pleased that a large group has responded well to the support they received at the shelter and others have even been reunited with their families.

“When we relocated them to the shelter in March there were questions about the long-term plans because we can’t keep them there forever, but we also don’t want them to go back to living on the streets,” he said.

“In the meantime we are still looking for assistance from the private sector with jobs, internships, and we are also engaging with SETAs for skills development programmes.

“We also assist those that need to go back to school to either complete their matrics or degrees.”

He said the group that was allowed to volunteer is from the batch that arrived at the shelters on the first day of the lockdown and has never tried to leave. He said the municipality has written to several organisations with the hope that they can assist with getting them some stipend. “We’ve decided to try a model of turning a bad teacher into a good teacher because people living on the streets are amongst the contributors of the urban decay because they do all sorts of things like littering, urinating in public and others even steal manhole covers.

“The group of volunteers that we have now will not only be helping with the cleaning but also assist in the awareness campaigns on compliance with bylaws related to the cleanliness of the city,” Mathe said.

He said there has been a worrying call from businesses and residents about the homeless people staying at the shelters, citing a possible increase in crime in the area, but he hoped that this cleaning initiative will be proof that the homeless can also make meaningful contributions to their city.

Mathe said while the operations at the shelters are going well, with even those who had left returning of their own accord, Msunduzi is still struggling with ensuring that there is adequate food, toiletries and clothing for beneficiaries.

He appealed for donations, particularly food and winter clothing.

“We are also appealing for donations for educational material because most of our people can read, so if they can get books and magazines that would be appreciated.”

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