Durban – ETHEKWINI mayor Mxolisi Kaunda has said placing homeless people in facilities during the national lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19 helped many regain control of their lives.
He said many had been reunited with their families, some had kicked drug addiction and many others had been equipped with skills that could serve them for the rest of their lives.
He was defending the spending on homeless people during a council meeting on Friday.
The IFP had criticised the municipality for spending millions of rand to care for the homeless population when some among those living on the streets were “well-off” individuals who should be living with their families.
The IFP also raised concerns about the budget, which was initially pegged at R66 million but had dropped to about R20m.
The party said the unexplained drop created suspicion that the prices had originally been inflated.
The Mercury reported recently that the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs had found that municipalities across the province had spent a combined R167m to care for the homeless during the lockdown.
Regarding the dramatic drop in the budget, Kaunda said the City had implemented many changes to cut costs, including purchasing its own tents rather than renting them, which was more expensive.
“It is expensive to hire tents by the day, so we decided to buy them outright so that even after this (Covid-19 situation), those tents will be available for use by the municipality when it needs to cope with disasters.
“We should tout the success, about 171 people have been reunited with their families, about 60 went through a drug rehabilitation programme, and many others who were part of this process acquired skills that could serve them for the rest of their lives,” he said.
IFP councillor Mdu Nkosi said his party had been calling for the municipality to profile all those living on the streets. “We said, as the IFP, let us profile these people so we can assist those who are in need and ensure that those who should not be there are sent back to their homes,” he said.