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IN PICS | Bizarre places homeless people sleep in include graveyards, under bridges and inside dilapidated buildings

Vaughan Durno, 39, sleeping among the dead at Stellawood Cemetery in Umbilo.
Vaughan Durno, 39, sleeping among the dead at Stellawood Cemetery in Umbilo.
Image: SANDILE NDLOVU

Some people find themselves in bizarre situations in trying to address their needs as outlined by Maslow in his hierarchy of needs.

In pursuit of a need for shelter and food, some South Africans have found homes in graveyards, underneath bridges, on the streets, inside dilapidated buildings, with others selling items alongside the dead, while some have turned to prostitution, touting for business behind a church. 

A group of people have found homes between the graves at Stellawood Cemetery in Umbilo, Durban. One of them is Vaughan Durno, 39, who left home in Umkomaas on the KwaZulu-Natal south coast in pursuit of a better life. 

“When I got a job, I left home to find my space and be who I wanted to be”, said Durno. 

He lost his job as a web developer after the company he worked for closed down due to Covid-19. He and the rest of the group in the cemetery have identified different spots among the dead to find rest every night. 

“In the morning when I wake up, I go and beg for food outside a shopping centre in Umbilo”, Durno added. 

He says he is fearless and has never experienced nightmares. 

A group of street traders have been making a profit since the dawn of democracy along the fence of West Street Cemetery in Durban's city centre. 

They hail from different townships and villages in the province and sell fruit, vegetables, fast food, clothing and other items.

Leanne Steenkamp [not her real name] waits for clients behind St Mary's Church in Greyville, Durban.
Leanne Steenkamp [not her real name] waits for clients behind St Mary's Church in Greyville, Durban.
Image: SANDILE NDLOVU
Ndunduzo Ntuli from KwaMaphumulo, north of Pietermaritzburg, throws water out after doing laundry in a dilapidated house on Alpine Road in Springfield, Durban.
Ndunduzo Ntuli from KwaMaphumulo, north of Pietermaritzburg, throws water out after doing laundry in a dilapidated house on Alpine Road in Springfield, Durban.
Image: SANDILE NDLOVU
The Old Apostolic Church of Africa on Victoria Street in Pietermaritzburg has been operating as a pawnshop for some time.
The Old Apostolic Church of Africa on Victoria Street in Pietermaritzburg has been operating as a pawnshop for some time.
Image: SANDILE NDLOVU

“There are no jobs but at least we try to put food on the table,” said Sizwe Gama. 

The father of two daughters takes home about R150 on an average day and about R350 on a busy day. Gama is not fazed by the location he operates from. 

“They are dead and there is nothing they can do to us”, he said. 

While a church is deemed to be a sacred place, a group of prostitutes in Greyville solicit clients behind it. 

They wear miniskirts, crop-tops and high heels to attract the attention of potential clients. 

Leanne Steenkamp (not her real name) ran away from her abusive and drug-addicted husband but fell into the wrong hands after her friend introduced her to “a bad crowd”.

The 37-year-old said she used to work in one of the large supply chain stores in Durban but her husband would use her salary to buy Mandrax. 

“One day I decided to run away from him and I had arranged with my friend to help me. When he [husband] was high I ran away with the friend,” Steenkamp said.

She is a victim of human trafficking. She said her drink was spiked while she was having fun with friends and was trafficked to Pretoria.

Goodman Mhlongo warms himself by a fire as he prepares to sleep in a bus shelter on Botanic Gardens Road in Durban.
Goodman Mhlongo warms himself by a fire as he prepares to sleep in a bus shelter on Botanic Gardens Road in Durban.
Image: SANDILE NDLOVU
A group of street traders line up along the fence of a graveyard on West Street, Durban, to sell their wares.
A group of street traders line up along the fence of a graveyard on West Street, Durban, to sell their wares.
Image: SANDILE NDLOVU

“They probably dropped something into my drink. When I woke up there I asked, 'what is happening here' and they said, 'you will soon know' and that’s all I can remember,” said Steenkamp. 

She has tried to commit suicide many times.

“The last time I tried to end my life I ended up in hospital. When I was conscious I saw in my file that I had heart failure”, she said.  

An abandoned and dilapidated house on Alpine Road, which is on the verge of collapse, has become a home to some homeless people. 

Ndunduzo Ntuli from KwaMaphulo, in northern KwaZulu-Natal, said his life took a turn for the worse when his name was recorded in South Africa’s criminal record system for the theft of a cellphone.

The 26-year-old is one of many who lives in the “ghost” house. 

“When I was released on R1,000 bail I tried to look for a job but because of my criminal record I was rejected. This ghost house has become my home,” he said. 

He said the left side of the house collapsed while they were asleep and one person was injured. Ntuli collects recyclable materials to resell to make a living. He is also a talented poet and when TimesLIVE visited him he recited his poem titled Mama. Ntuli said that there were many talented people on the country's streets. 

When the weather is unpleasant, a bus stop near Durban University of Technology becomes home to Goodman Mhlongo, who doesn't have permanent shelter. 

“When it is cold and raining I come here to sleep. I light a fire to warm myself and when it goes out I sleep,” he said. 

Another oddity is a pawnshop that has been running its business inside The Old Apostolic Church of Africa on Victoria Street in Pietermaritzburg, one of KwaZulu-Natal's capital city's historic buildings.

TimesLIVE

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