There are about ten people still staying in the tents at Tzaneen’s Jetty 3. These individuals are the last remaining of the homeless people who were sheltered here in March shortly after the nationwide lockdown commenced.

The temporary homeless shelter was erected after a directive by the Coronavirus Command Council to prevent the homeless in town and city centres from contracting and spreading the disease. When the shelter was erected five months ago, there were 45 inhabitants who were fed three meals a day and stayed in tents with warm blankets and mattresses supplied by the Mopani District Disaster Management team in cooperation with the Greater Tzaneen Municipality.

The group comprised of homeless individuals from Tzaneen and as far as Nkowankowa. Some of them were taken from their usual residences behind the Boxer complex in the CBD and brought to the shelter. Many of them walked away from the shelter in the middle of the night after a week or two in the camp. Some came back, others did not bother.

The shelter came under fire from the residents and the local branch of the DA who claimed that establishing the shelter at the Jetty 3 site was counter-intuitive considering that it was during the start of the winter and the tents these homeless were housed in, were setup next to the dam in the middle of the residential area.

The DA was concerned about the safety of the residents and the challenges that controlling a group of homeless people (many of whom were substance abusers) would bring at a mostly open site such as the Jetty. Many also asked how long the shelter would remain in operation and how the municipality would disperse these individuals once the lockdown had ended.

We spoke to the municipal manager of the Greater Tzaneen Municipality, Thapelo Matlala, who said that they had received orders from the Provincial Command Council to start the process of winding down the shelter considering that the threat had not subsided. “Currently there is only a small handful of people still sheltered at Jetty 3 and we have started working on a closing down process whereby the remaining homeless will be moved to the nearest homeless shelter and the tents and other temporary facilities erected at the site, will be packed up. We are awaiting a full report on the matter which we will communicate with the community once it is completed.”

The remaining inhabitants are still receiving three cooked meals per day and are still undergoing regular medical screenings from the health officials and social workers who visit the site daily. We have asked for some clarity regarding the tents and the mattresses and blankets (what will the District Municipality do with these items), as well as the expected duration before everything returns to normal at the site. We had not received feedback by deadline this week and will therefore follow up in next week’s edition.