UKZN Webinar on how Durban Helped the Homeless during Lockdown
UKZN’s Alumni Relations office hosted a webinar titled: How Durban Led the Country in Helping Homeless People during Lockdown.
Facilitated by UKZN’s Corporate Relations Acting Executive Director, Ms Normah Zondo and presented by the Director of the Denis Hurley Centre and UKZN’s PhD student, Mr Raymond Perrier, the webinar examined Durban’s swift response in providing emergency shelters for the homeless.
As the Chair for the eThekwini Task Team on Homelessness, Perrier explained how the city had been able to respond quickly. ‘When the President initiated the lockdown in March 2020 and stipulated that cities were required to provide shelter for the homeless, Durban was at an advantage because our task team had already secured various organisations which could provide emergency refuge,’ Perrier said.
With 2 000 homeless people in Durban, the emergency havens were divided into three sections; a women’s shelter, a shelter for sick women and men at the Denis Hurley Centre and park tents for men provided by the municipality.
The shelters provided food, healthcare and support for those struggling with drug addiction, giving the homeless a reason to stay indoors without being forced too.
Acknowledging the work UKZN has done with the Denis Hurley Centre - known as a place of care for the homeless, Perrier thanked student volunteers in the Social Work, Psychology, Law and Drama Departments for lending a helping hand. He encouraged more students in specialist fields such as social work and psychology to take part and provide counselling for the homeless in their home languages.
Perrier thanked the interfaith organisations for providing daily meals, Metro Health Support for delivering medical services, the South African Police Service for its continued support, the eThekwini Municipality, and other NGOs for providing funding and services for the homeless.
Identifying lack of employment as the main reason for homelessness, Perrier highlighted how the centre is focused on teaching skills to the homeless. He mentioned the bookselling programme which helps provide employment and urged people to buy second-hand books from the centre.
With the easing of lockdown restrictions, the homeless are no longer required to be indoors during the day so the shelters have been transformed into sleeping havens for the homeless used at night.
Calling on the homeless to be treated with dignity and respect, Perrier said it was important for the centre to provide a safe and happy environment for the homeless.
Pledging the University`s continued support for the Centre, Zondo said: ‘It’s not always about money - offering services is so important and there’s a lot we can do to assist the community in that area.’
Words: Hlengiwe Khwela