In One Short Week…..

During this time of uncertainty and anxiety, many of my friends are at the coalface of helping to find ways of keeping our city’s homeless community safe.
Amidst the WhatsApp flurry of important but fixable challenges, I realised the amazing achievement the people of Durban have pulled off in one week.
In one short week…
City officials, municipal workers, government staffers, NGOs, faith leaders, corporates, organisations and individuals have worked together as one team with astonishing results
The enlightened civic leadership of Deputy Mayor Belinda Scott and Deputy City Manager Vusi Mazibuko and their teams have been world-class. This has meant that Durban has led the way in its response to managing the plight of the city’s homeless men and women quickly and efficiently
Some remarkable, proactive, efficient and amazing NGOs and their volunteers have been involved this week. Particular heroes are the men and women from the Denis Hurley Centre under the leadership of Raymond Perrier, We Are Durban under the leadership of Linda Morrison and Grace Aid led by Dave Richter.
2000 street people have been screened and processed
No one showed any C-19 symptoms
300 street people have gone back to their homes or removed themselves from the process
1700 people (1400 men and 300 women) have been given temporary accommodation – frail, disabled and elderly men, and all women and children in formal shelters, men in tented camps throughout the city
All have been given hygiene packs, mattresses and blankets
They have at least three freshly prepared meals every day
Durban takes for granted its strong interfaith relations. During times of crisis, that strength comes to the fore. This week faith communities have fed the body and soothed the souls:
Volunteers from the Christian tradition provide breakfasts (thank you Nomvula Shale and the team from Siphila Ngomusa Community Development)
Volunteers from the Hindu tradition provide lunches (thank you Ashok Sewnarairn and the team from the Pavilion Hotel) with additional lunches provided for staff (thank you HEAL Foundation of Arya Samaj)
Volunteers from the Muslim tradition provide suppers (thank you Ebeen Khan from Feed the Poor, and Kathy from Team Rashid Bashier and your respective teams)
Volunteers from the Jewish tradition provide refreshments and a quiet refuge at the Durban Jewish Centre for all emergency personnel.
There is a group of religious leaders from the major faith groups praying with them and for them in their shelters and camps. Religious texts have been sourced; Reverends, Imams and Pandits are praying alongside each other …. and copies of the Qur’an have been dropped off at the YMCA!
The vendors from DHC Street Lit project – themselves vulnerable men and women (many of them formally street people themselves) voluntarily donated books from their storeroom to give to the homeless to read. 15 boxes of carefully chosen books were packed and delivered (one per site) to help alleviate boredom
Corporates, individuals and organisations have generously donated essential items and foodstuffs consistently throughout Lockdown
Extraordinary men and women are managing the individual sites and dealing with unprecedented challenges and making difficult decisions. They are doing astonishing work
There are medical personnel on hand to help with medical situations
There are police and security on hand to keep everyone safe and where they should be
There are counsellors on hand to help with addiction withdrawals
Addicts have told personnel they are grateful for the opportunity to have the chance to begin the detox process
The media have been amazing – giving the process, plans and people involved enormous and considered support
In one short week… we have done this!
From my little corner, watching with gratitude and respect, miracles have happened. I am hugely proud and affirmed.
To every person involved in this process, from deep within my heart, I salute and applaud you
My prayer is this amazing energy and efficiency continues through Lockdown and beyond and can be harnessed way into the future.
And if there are any people wanting to help further – probably the best thing to do is to make a cash donation to the Denis Hurley Centre – they will make sure it goes towards paying for the myriad expenses incurred at this time. Their website / FB has more details.
Illa Thompson
Publicity Matters

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