Access to clean running water is just one of the many challenges homeless people face.
But destitute people in Cape Town now have the opportunity to take a steaming hot shower thanks to a mobile shower and ablution bus that services homeless people in the city.
The colourful bus is named Nina Manzi, which means mother of water, and is fitted with four hot water showers and four toilets divided for male and female use.
The initiative is a partnership between three NGOs, Viva Con Agua, U-Turn and Baz-Art, and the goal of the wash facility is to restore human dignity to the destitute.
Thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, the number of people living on the streets has reached record levels, says Ajay Paul, manager and co-founder of Viva Con Agua.
“We saw this explosion in the number of people living in tents, parks and bridges in the streets of Cape Town and the police reaction together with the community resulted in forced evictions, which seemed very harsh," he says.
That's when Viva Con Agua, a community and network of individuals and organisations dedicated to providing humane access to safe drinking water and basic sanitary care, decided to lend a helping hand.
“As an organisation that works with water and sanitation, we saw the need to provide people with their basic need and right to water and sanitation,” he says.
Sisanda Henda, who managed the project on behalf of Viva Con Agua, adds that hygiene and sanitation are some of the main challenges that homeless people face. "We wanted to alleviate these challenges,” she says.
It took R500 000 and 11 months to get Nina Manzi off the ground and the wash bus was eventually launched on 19 July.
Sisanda says some of the people who used the facility were practically glowing when they left. One woman cried when she took her first hot shower in ages. "It’s like they’d been given an opportunity to represent themselves in a dignified way."
Everyone who steps inside the trailer gets basic toiletries which include a set of clean towels, a face cloth, liquid shower soap, shampoo, body lotion and a box to put their belongings in as they shower.
“Hygiene is top priority for us. Our cleaners ensure that the showers are always clean for the next person to use by deep cleaning in the morning, disinfecting after every use and deep cleaning at the end of the day,” Sisanda says.
The wash bus doesn't operate on Tuesdays because the day is dedicated to deep cleaning all the nooks and crannies.
The bus is currently parked at U-turn Homeless Ministries in Claremont. The organisation works with people who are homeless and are providing the bus with a safe location, electricity and access to water taps.
Although it was started with funding from overseas donors, Ajay says he hopes more local people will get involved, especially because they now plan to roll out the bus to service other areas in the city.
“We really hope South Africa can embrace this initiative and the funding comes from South Africa for South Africans."
EXTRA SOURCES: VIVACONAGUA.ORG.ZA, GROUNDUP.ORG.ZA