HomeNewsCOVID-19: Govt struggles to keep homeless people off streets

COVID-19: Govt struggles to keep homeless people off streets

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BY PATRICIA SIBANDA

GOVERNMENT is struggling to keep homeless people, who include street kids, the mentally-challenged and other homeless people, away from the streets to curb the spread of COVID-19 during lockdown.

This was revealed by Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare secretary Simon Masanga yesterday.

Masanga said it was difficult to keep them in the shelters because begging was in their veins.

“These people survive by begging from the streets and it is difficult to keep people, who, most of them use drugs,” he said.

“So these people run away because we do not give them money to buy the drugs. That is the reason why they escape back to the streets. For some, they have made it a habit, so it is very hard to keep them off the streets.”

Last year, government removed children from the streets to isolation homes to curb the spread of COVID-19. However, most of them are back on the streets begging from motorists despite the lockdown.

“It requires a lot to rehabilitate these people and we provide them with food and a place to stay only. Our ministry mainly focuses on street kids and we make sure that we provide medication, schooling and other basic stuff for them,” Masanga said.

“We have security systems and social protection programmes at least to keep an eye on them but we do not have to do it in a way that they feel like they are in a prison because they are not. So that’s where the problem emerges because they are free to do anything that they want. But the fact that they have made it a habit to beg, they tend to go back.”

Masanga said the government had made efforts to come up with laws to keep adults off the streets.

“Our government has made frantic efforts to strengthen the Vagrancy Act which is being administered by the Home Affairs ministry to rehabilitate adults who live and work on the streets. As a ministry, our responsibility is only to focus on the young ones,” he said.

Jairos Jiri Craft Centre in Bulawayo is being used to shelter children from the streets as a measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Follow Patricia on Twitter @patriciasiband

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