Gauteng pulls plug on ‘ruined’ homeless shelter

A Gauteng NGO servicing homeless people in Tshwane is up in arms after the provincial social development department withdrew its allocated R11-million funding for failing to repair and service a public shelter to be fit for human habitation.

But the NGO, Kitso Lesedi Community Development, denies it has to maintain the government-owned public building, situated at No 2 Struben Street.

The building belongs to the city of Tshwane, said the NGO, and its involvement is limited to supplying the homeless residents of the shelter with daily basic services like food, clothing and skills development programmes.

“The crux is that Kitso is not responsible for the maintenance of No 2 Struben Street shelter. The unilateral termination of the service level agreement (SLA) is unlawful and unfounded,” said Latham Dixon, a lawyer assisting the NGO.

MEC not backing down

But Gauteng social development MEC Mbali Hlophe told Sunday World she was not backing down from the decision.

“The facts are glaring: the building belongs to Tshwane, which, together with the NPO in question, had to secure the upkeep of the shelter and failed to do this.”

Hlophe said Kitso had been receiving R11 896 584.00 for the running of a homeless shelter in line with the signed SLA.

“And part of the amount is also allocated towards the upkeep of the shelter, which has not been the case,” she added.

She said the funding was not the only amount that Kitso received.

“However, due to the investigation in place, the department cannot further unpack the matter.

“It is safe to say that the department is adamant that it will only support deserving and diligent NPOs and will not tolerate dishonest NPOs who try to profit off the plight of the poor,” said Hlophe.

On November 2, the NGO was served with a withdrawal of funding for rendering services at No 2 Struben Street shelter because the living conditions of the residents were found not to be conducive to human habitation.

Living conditions not conducive

In the letter, Gauteng social development regional director Mpho Mokoena said that following her visit to the shelter on October 9, she found that the living conditions of the residents were not conducive to human habitation, and the building was dilapidated and in need of renovations.

“Among the residents, there are vulnerable groups of people, for example, older persons, persons living with disabilities, people on chronic medication, pregnant women and women with children whose safety and health are adversely affected by continuing to stay in an unhygienic environment,” Mokoena said.

Based on the above reasons, she said, the shelter was declared non-compliant in terms of the occupational health and safety laws.

As per the head of department’s instructions, social workers from the department of social development and Kitso Lesedi Community Development began conducting assessments of residents on October 13 to relocate residents to more suitable buildings.

Unfortunately, said Mokoena, “the process was stopped – while in progress – by residents of No 2 Struben Shelter on October 16, 2023”.

“The department of social development is therefore withdrawing funding for Kitso Lesedi Community Development to render services at No 2 Struben Shelter until the living conditions of the residents at the shelter are improved and conducive to human habitation.”

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