EThekwini Skills Development Programme restores hope and purpose to the homeless

EThekwini Skills Development Programme restores hope and purpose to the homeless

The 12 emergency homeless shelters established by eThekwini Municipality around the City in response to Covid-19 have become therapy centres to many residents of these temporary homes and indeed proving to be a key contributor in the bid to restore dignity to the vulnerable communities in the city, writes Nonduduzo Ngcongo

The emergency shelters established by the City in response to the Covid-19 pandemic have offered the City’s homeless time off the street to pause, reflect and do some internal introspection about their future through participating in many skills training and developmental programmes on offer.

At three of the homeless shelters located in the Central Business Districts such as Jewish Shelter, situated behind the Elangeni Hotel, Block AK situated in Greyville and Lahee Park Shelter in Pinetown, residents have started their own gardens to grow vegetables. The members of the garden thanked the Municipality for offering them a new lease of life.

All three gardens grow mostly green vegetables including lettuce, spinach, chillies, beetroot, sugar beans, green beans, onions tomatoes and flower seedlings. They have started selling some of their produce and other plants are nearing the harvesting stage.

The Municipality is busy facilitating access to market for these garden projects and is having discussions with the Department of Correctional Services and will approach other Departments who procure vegetables for soup kitchens.

One of the programme testimonials stated that the programme offered a fresh start for them and made them realised the mistakes they have made in life. They also want to donate some of their produce to the community to show them that they have truly turned their lives around.

Site Managers at the three homeless shelter sites were amazed by the dedication of the homeless in this project and stated that they are truly reformed and looking forward to be a brighter future away from the streets.

The homeless are being mentored by Farming God’s Way and Gibbor, a non-governmental farming organization, on new and innovative ways of planting and both organisations have committed to buy the produce. Municipal and Provincial Departments within the agricultural sector also offer their expertise and mentor these groups.

The garden initiative has also attracted private sector interest who have donated equipment such as manure to ensure the homeless do not end up in the streets again.

Another initiative being implemented is to empower the homeless with more to life is skills training programmes offered on site facilitated by professionals. Skills provided includes upholstery, pottery

classes, plumbing, basic Sound Engineering skills , carpentry, sewing, beadwork knitting, visual arts, gardening, recycling and computer skills.

As a results of this, a group of homeless people who were trained in sewing and makes beautiful bags is planning to take over the manufacturing industry and has formed a co-operative called Siyazakha Sewing Club. The group’s impressive work has inspired the MEC for Arts and Culture in KwaZulu-Natal, Hlengiwe Mavimbela who has donated the industrial sewing machine to the group to assist them upscale and maximize their production as they plan to operate a bag manufacturing factory in the near future.

Mayor of eThekwini Municipality, Councillor Mxolisi Kaunda said: “Providing homeless with opportunities is one of our strategies to reduce homelessness and fight the battle against crime as it is a known fact that living on the streets can result to one being associated with wrongdoing.”

Kaunda said, as the City of eThekwini, through homeless project some have been reunited with their families and mentioned that the City will commemorate the World Homeless Day on 10 October to highlight all the achievements.

The shelters, known as Safe Sleeping Spaces, provide basic needs including meals, toiletries, sanitation and offer health care services such as a drug management programme, psycho-social support and family reunification.

Since the shelters were established in March, more than 250 homeless people have managed to quit drugs, 189 have returned to their families, 65 have received basic computer training, more than 10 have been moved to old age homes and eight are now permanently employed.

“We are indeed working around the clock and doubling our efforts to manage the homeless issue in the City as one of the strategies to prevent crime. One permanent formal structure for women in now functional and two Safe Sleeping Spaces are due for construction in the 2020/21 financial year,” added Kaunda.

Article by eThekwini Municipality