UPDATE: “There is a plan for the destitute vagrants”– the city

IN NEED: Vagrants living in the inner city of Johannesburg have residents in arms and a ward councillor intervenes. Photo: Lucky Thusi

THE city has shed light on vagrants living in desperation in an open space of Ward 124 on the corner of Anderson and Goud streets in the CBD.

This is after ANC Ward 124 Clr Mongameli Myameni took the COURIER to the streets of Johannesburg to point out an apparent issue related to vagrants living in an open space in the city centre.

Mongameli said the situation needed urgent attention. He explained that the vagrants needed urgent shelter, basics and that intervention was desperately sought.

City of Johannesburg’s deputy director of media relations Nthatisi Modingoane and media specialist to the office of the mayor Siyanda Makhubo both said a plan was in place to address the recurring issue of vagrants.

Modingoane said the inner city was experiencing an alarming increase in city parks being invaded and taken over by displaced people.

The invasions included parks being used as a ‘home’ and work spaces where the vagrants did all their recycling activities, commercial sex work and drug peddling.

Modingoane agreed that the park in question was one of the worst affected by the influx of displaced people. He said the situation became worse after the fire in the Cape York building earlier in the year which saw most of the people who refused to be relocated to Turfontein moved to the park.

He added that there had been some intervention. Region F integrated service delivery and the park was free of vagrants after a clean-up campaign was administered.

“In the first half of 2017 the homeless were successfully removed but, unfortunately, because a park is a public open space for the community, the homeless take advantage of that and move back, which is what they did when they re-occupied the park.”

“The above-mentioned intervention suffered a blow when the Human Rights Commission intervened on behalf of the homeless and accused the City of Johannesburg of harassment when Region F removed the homeless from the park. The homeless people had alleged to the Human Rights Commission that Region F harassed them by removing their means of livelihood, thus making it hard for them to sustain themselves.”

He said the city was providing a spectrum of services through its social development department in response to the vagrants’ immediate needs which were shelter, drug rehabilitation, family reunification and skills development as a way of ensuring that conditions leading to people living and working on the streets are improved.

“However these services are not imposed on displaced persons, only those who are willing to be assisted are provided with the required services according to their needs,” said Modingoane.

Also Read: City in tatters

He said several interventions through the Displaced Persons Sub Unit outreach programme were conducted at the hotspot and to date about 139 displaced persons were removed from the hotspot and had undergone drug rehabilitation. He said the majority of the vagrants, however, were not interested in the services provided.

Makhubo said more often than not when the city was informed of an eviction, the city would seek temporary accommodation for residents.

He said the city had followed protocol to ensure that evicted residents were provided with basic necessary services; however, the city could not compel those evicted to live in designated areas.

According to him, the city had long-term plans.

There was a plan to address affordable rentals through the Inner City Housing Implementation Plan (ICHIP) at the beginning of the 2017/18 financial year.

Makhubo said: “We are working hard to ensure that our residents without decent housing are allocated a home which allows them and their families to lead dignified lives.”

Both Makhubo and Modingoane said the city had an adjusted budget to fund the Johannesburg Social Housing Company’s (JOSHCO) purchase of buildings within the inner city. These buildings will be refurbished and used for low-cost rental stock that will house families who could otherwise not afford either a home loan or market-priced rental accommodation.

One of the vagrants, Vusi Mahlangu, had in a previous report said no one cared for the vagrants and all they needed were food and shelter.

“We are not working; we survive by recycling scrap metals, paper and plastic.”

He concluded by saying that people sleeping in parks were desperate.

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Gopolang Chawane

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