WHEN Sri Lankan Deen Mohammed arrived in South Africa more than 10 years ago his first encounter was with a group of thugs who robbed him of everything he owned, leaving him stranded on the streets of Durban.
On the brink of being permanently homeless as a result of the incident, Mohammed decided he would take action after his time on the street revealed to him how the destitute lived.
"I saw people eating out of rubbish and sleeping on cardboard on pavements and some of these people even helped me with food."
Mohammed said it was this that prompted him to contact his family in Sri Lanka to ask them for money to set up the Durban Beach Shelter.
Today more than 170 people are fed twice daily at the shelter.
"We charge R20 a day and people who come have to be on the right track in life. There are some people who cannot afford to pay and we understand that.
We will allow them to stay for free for a while but we are providing much more than that R20 a day."
He said alcoholics, drug addicts and sex workers were forbidden from entering the shelter. The shelter is situated on the notorious Point Road, Durban's red light district and a haven for druglords.
Alida Lombard has been living at the shelter for the past five years.
"Deen is very good to me and though we have no privacy it is better than living on the streets."
Eric Ngubo said he chose to live at the shelter, because it was close to his place of work.
"It's the only place I can stay at here in Durban that is cheap. I come from the Midlands and that is too far to travel everyday."
Last week KwaZulu-Natal MEC for finance Ina Cronjé paid a visit to the shelter where she listened to the plight of the people living there.
She plans on working with the department of housing at the eThekwini municipality and the department of human settlements at provincial level to try to secure another venue for these homeless people.