NPOs In ‘Desperate Need Of Support’ To Help The Homeless
The COVID-19 pandemic has already had a huge impact on the homeless sector in South Africa. Thousands of people remain isolated on the streets, with reduced support. As a result, South African NPOs have come under unprecedented pressure. They are working with partners and government to assist as many people as they can, but they are in uncharted territory as shelters have had to turn themselves into lockdown centres literally overnight.
Even as NPOs work tirelessly to address the current needs, the economic impact of the current lockdown in South Africa will create a groundswell on the homeless front. “NPOs are being inundated with people trying to find out if there will be space for them in the coming weeks as they no longer have an income,” said Keri-Leigh Paschal, Executive Trustee of Nation Builder.
Many people who were previously working, especially in part-time jobs and were able to take up short-term rental opportunities, will now find themselves destitute. “Current facilities cannot accommodate all of the homeless, and those that are still on the street also need to be cared for and fed,” said Paschal. “We need individuals and businesses to give generously to NPOs as they work on the frontline to alleviate the plight of the homeless in this unprecedented time.”
Leona Pienaar, CEO of MES, an NPO operating in three provinces, emphasised the need for the provision of constructive activities for people in lockdown. Simple activities, like playing cards, are no longer an option as this could lead to transmission of the virus.
“Online activities would be ideal as they answer the need for social distancing. There is a desperate need for mental health support groups, COVID-19 education and basic literacy and numeracy training. All of this could be delivered online, but we would need the technology, equipment and access to the content. We need to keep people occupied to avoid the possibility of altercations, but also to provide support and education to address fears and ideally equip people with new skills as this would assist us as we lay plans for long-term exit strategies,” said Pienaar.
MD of “We are Durban”, Linda Morrison, explained that the Durban Exhibition Centre was opened as a screening and placement centre. “The homeless were invited to be health screened, seen by social workers and then placed in one of the 13 facilities we have available for them. We were assisted by The Department of Health, City Health, NPOs, and DSD for social workers.” The Centre was opened for three days and they expected 1000 people to arrive, yet over 2000 came.
Homeless people were collected and brought to shelters and have lost touch with the people that they normally live with on the street. They do not know where “their people” are and they have been left feeling confused and displaced. Shelters are dealing with a range of people including those with various mental illnesses, the physically challenged, addicts, the elderly, some with dementia, as well as people that have recently been released from prison.
Each person that is taken into a shelter needs to be profiled, so that contact tracing can be implemented if they show symptoms and this adds to the already heavy administrative load. Just one of the many other complications that has to be overcome is that addicts experiencing withdrawal have to be fed a specialised diet and also need to be monitored.
It places additional logistical strain on NPOs when they have to arrange the collection of donated items and they also need permits for those that are doing the collections. “We are urging people to donate funds to NPOs at this time,” said Paschal. “The supply of funds also gives NPOs the opportunity to pool funds and spend in the area of most urgent need,” said Paschal. “No amount is too small, and every cent will count.”
The Mergon Group has established a Gap Fund to stand in the gap for our nation’s NPOs. You can access Nation Builder’s BackaBuddy Campaign to donate or alternatively donate directly to the Nation Builder Trust. All funds will be made available to a select group of vetted NPOs that are doing incredible work on the ground in our communities.
Nation Builder Trust Banking details are:
Nation Builder Trust
First National Bank
Cheque Account number: 62820343557
Branch code: 204-109
Reference: Gap Fund