South Africa

‘Mayor must fast-track delivery of adopted 2019 homelessness policy’ after shelter closure – Good party

Political party Good is concerned over the folding of Tshwane’s only metro-run homeless shelter in the Pretoria CBD.

The shelter in Struben Street in the Pretoria CBD is facing complete closure. Tshwane Good councillor Sarah Mabotsa is urging mayor Cilliers Brink to ditch the delays and fast-track the 2019-approved homelessness plan dubbed a “first in South Africa”.

“We call on Brink to fast-track plans to convert abandoned city buildings into homeless shelters in light of this news,” said Mabotsa.

Mabotsa said the shelter had long fallen into disrepair since it was founded in 2005.

“It houses double the number of homeless people it is intended for. The toilets on site overflow with waste, and drug gangs have expanded their operations into the facility.”

She said Tshwane had no plans to build new shelters in the city as the metro struggled with a chronic revenue shortage, “all thanks to years of shoddy financial management”.

Mabotsa added that a survey done by the city in collaboration with the University of Pretoria and the Tshwane Homelessness Forum in May revealed that 4 000 people live on Tshwane’s streets.

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University of Pretoria Dean of Faculty of Theology and Religion Jerry Pillay signs the 2019 homelessness contract alongside Tshwane MMC of social development Thabisile Vilakazi at Tshwane House. Photo: Reitumetse Mahope

According to Census 2022 figures, Tshwane makes up the highest proportion of homeless South Africans, said Mabotsa.

“The figures and decay of existing shelters show a city that has abandoned responsibility.”

She said recently, Brink had floated the idea of working with NGOs to convert abandoned city buildings into temporary homeless shelters, while at the same time, Tshwane would auction off the underutilised property to strengthen its finances.

“If the city has underutilised property at its disposal, then there is no excuse not to take the first steps in addressing homelessness.

“This move should be commended, but we must also ensure it isn’t just hot air. We ask the mayor to accelerate implementation plans for this proposal.”

Tshwane had recently planned to refurbish the Blesbok, Bosbok, Ou Stalshoogte and Nuwe Stalshoogte buildings in Arcadia and transfer them to the Housing Company Tshwane (HCT), a social housing entity of the metro.

It said the move was expected to unlock funding from the Social Housing Regulatory Agency (SHRA) for their refurbishment.

Tshwane was ordered to shut the doors to No. 2 Struben Street Shelter, which was the only metro-operated homeless shelter after Gauteng MEC was left shocked at the appearance and operation of the shelter.

No. 2 Struben Street was established around 2005 and became home to over 600 homeless people during its years of operation.

Rent mafia however hijacked the shelter and began charging the vulnerable for their stay at the facility.

Although the metro regained control of the building, it failed to attend to its structural maintenance.

Gauteng MEC of social cevelopment, agriculture, rural development and environment, Mbali Hlophe, undertook a raid at the facility earlier this month.

The department found the facility to be non-compliant and that it was poorly servicing its hundreds of residents.

The MEC acted, ensuring that R11-million of funding towards operating the facility was halted as the troubled No.2 Struben Street shelter fell under the provincial spotlight with its premises flooded with waste and overflowing toilets.

“People have even erected shacks in the building of the shelter. Police arrested undocumented individuals and those selling drugs and alcohol.”

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????Shocking discovery at a Pretoria homeless shelter!???? MEC Mbali Hlophe ordered the closure of the facility and halted its funding due to unsanitary conditions and poor service. Residents were found living in shacks inside the building, with overflowing toilets and waste flooding the premises. ???????? The department is investigating the shelter for non-compliance and malpractices. ???????????? See more in my bio. rekordnewspaper homelessshelter shutdown unsanitaryconditions malpractices southafrica gauteng #pretoria | REKORD NEWS

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The area was found not conducive for individuals to reside in.

“The facts are glaring… the building belongs to Tshwane, which together with the NPO in question, had to secure the upkeep of the shelter and failed to do this,” said the MEC.

Tshwane spokesperson Lindela Mashigo said the city’s plan after the raid and budget cut to the shelter was to shut down the facility and relocate residents to alternative accommodation.

“The place has been declared unsafe for the people to stay in and several homeless shelters have been identified to accommodate the homeless,” said Mashigo.

He said the building would now remain empty, while plans were outlined to use the facility in the future.

“The facility will be sealed off to avoid invasion. When the funds become available, the facility will be upgraded.”

The provincial social development department has withheld R11-million of funding to Kitso Lesedi, the NPO appointed to care for shelter residents.

Mashigo said Tshwane was not involved in the funding arrangements between the NPO and the department.

He said the residents would be moved to various shelters managed by NPOs across Tshwane which had formal agreements with the metro.

Mashigo said these shelters were mainly based in the inner city.

He said the municipality’s strategy was not to establish more shelters but to rather support NPOs in their establishment of more shelters within the city.

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