City says help is at hand for homeless

Help is available for homeless people who want it, but not all of them do, says Wandile Zwane, Johannesburg's director for human development.

"If someone is on the street and wants to be assisted by the city, the displaced persons unit can help.

"The unit is made up of social workers who work with 30 members of the JMPD, who are actively speaking to people on street corners or who are sleeping in the rough.

"The JMPD approaches homeless people on the street and ask them, 'How can we help you?'

"If they want help they are taken to Governors House in Quartz Street, Hillbrow."

Zwane says a solution will be sought to resolve the person's needs.

"If they want to return home we organise transport for them (in Gauteng), Zwane says." We don't just send them home, we go and counsel the family too. We establish the reason or problem for their running away and then make short-term interventions.

"If the person just wants somewhere to sleep we find them a bed. We are working with a number of shelters around Johannesburg that can accommodate them.

"Unfortunately, the shelters won't keep people indefinitely, so our first action is to stabilise the individual."

Johannesburg will open two new shelters next month, one exclusively for children. They will jointly accommodate about 300 youngsters a year.

"The children can only stay at the refuge for three days, during which they will be assessed by physiologists, nurses and social workers to formulate an individual development plan.

"The next step will be to place them in a place of safety, children's home or a shelter. We will also try to connect them with their parents or families."