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Struben shelter remains in ruins

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No progress has been made in upgrading the No. 2 Struben shelter in Struben Street, Pretoria, as the facility remained in a worrying state, according to the shelter residents’ chairperson, Solly Hadebe.

Despite the shelter being declared inhabitable by the Tshwane metro, men and women have been living in unsanitary, unsafe conditions with little to no help for about six years now.

This led to the metro promising to refurbish the shelter and later subjecting the facility to a “phased closure”.

In the 2019/20 financial year, R5-million was allocated to the No. 2 Struben shelter for upgrades.

The project, however, could not take off due to the funds being re-allocated to Covid-19 projects.

In 2021, the Tshwane metro pleaded for R23.5-million from the Gauteng provincial government to refurbish buildings owned by the metro to accommodate 1 130 homeless people.

But the Gauteng Department of Social Development (DSD) said the millions of rands were not meant for upgrading shelters.

DSD spokesperson Feziwe Ndwayana said the allocation from the treasury did provide for infrastructure refurbishments.

Ndwayana said the metro requested more than R20-million for assistance to renovate its unused buildings to be converted into permanent homeless shelters.

These included No. 2 Struben, De Villiers Hof Building 521 in Gezina, Matsepa Primary School in Mabopane and ML Msezane Middle School in Mamelodi.

She said the total allocated budget was R26.9-million. The money was spent on psycho-social support services, park homes, nutritional meals, personnel costs, vehicles, equipment and other operational costs.

“With regards to infrastructure in Tshwane, the department allocated an overall R7.8-million to two shelters that have enough space to put up park homes, which Tshwane approved in terms of municipal requirements for buildings.

“The City submitted a plan for renovations, but these plans were supposed to be implemented by Tshwane in the 2020/21 financial year.”

Lavatory area for the homeless at No.2 Struben shelter. Photo: Reitumetse Mahope.

Hadebe said it has been six years and matters remained bad for the shelter dwellers.

“We are still struggling with bed bugs, ceilings collapsing and the entire structure threatening to give up soon.”

Hadebe said it had only gotten worse as they were now fighting streams and banks of water, especially on the women’s side.

“As it was raining this weekend, you’ll spot pools of water that side which children play in; however, that water is unhealthy, smelly and children are exposed to diseases.”

Hadebe said it was time the city administration took to their tools and responded to their situations.

“Over the years, Tshwane has done nothing here, only promise. Even now they are building low-cost housing right opposite us, despite us being promised better living conditions.”

He said that the site had regular oversite visits by metro officials.

“Right now, we need various items as winter and wet weather are upon us. We are worried about the children here that still need to go to school from harsh nights.”

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MMC for Social Development and Community Services Peggy de Bruin last week Wednesday, announced that the metro was looking at improving support for homeless shelters

“In my capacity, I conducted oversight visits to several municipality-supported homeless shelters.”

Some of the sites include Kitso Lesedi, Homeless Upliftment Project, Sunnyside Drop-in Centre, NG Kerk and Youth for survival, which is within walking distance of Struben Shelter.

The City has a total of 11 homeless shelters that are run by NGOs with the majority of these based in the inner city.

De Bruin said she decided to conduct these oversight visits after her department was approached by the Tshwane Homeless Forum (THF) to look at possible ways that the city could further support NGOs that run homeless shelters.

“We consider NGOs as critical stakeholders and we are committed to collaborating with them and supporting their services.”

De Bruin said the city was offering support in the form of food provision from Tshwane’s food bank, social services and maintenance of buildings at these sites.

She added further support came from the Gauteng DSD which allocated funds to NGOs quarterly.

She urged and encouraged residents, businesses and embassies to also support and donate to these humanitarian organisations.

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