Homeless:We are on the streets hustling

Homeless:We are on the streets hustling

“If I were to get the R350 [relief grant], I’d use some of it to start a stall, buy snacks and sell them for a profit,” said Lebo Mofolo (28) from Naledi in Soweto.

Mofolo has been living on the streets for the past two years.

“I wanted to help out at home, but I was not comfortable recycling waste where I stayed so I came to the city [Johannesburg],” Mofolo said.

He said that the R350 Social Relief of Distress grant announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa last week was not a lot of money and people needed to consider investing it in something profitable for it to grow.

The grant is one of the measures announced by government to assist citizens for the next six months to help them cope with the impact of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Other measures include an additional R300 to child support grant beneficiaries from this month and a R500 increase from June to October.

All other grant beneficiaries will receive an extra R250 a month for the next six months.

Recipients of the R350 social relief of distress grant need to be:
South African citizens, permanent residents or refugees registered on the department of home affairs population register.
Unemployed and/or not receiving any income.
Not receiving another social grant, unemployment insurance or not qualifying to receive unemployment insurance.
Not receiving a stipend from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme.
Not resident in a government-subsidised institution, such as a prison, old age home or shelter.

Kgomoco Diseko, spokesperson of the SA Social Security Agency, told City Press that applications “will be done by WhatsApp or Unstructured Supplementary Service Data for feature phones” and “the public will be informed when to apply”.

“Additional details will be released when the minister briefs the public soon,” he added.

Meanwhile, Mofolo fears that he may not qualify for the grant because he, like many homeless people moved into shelters as government’s lockdown instructions, but voluntarily moved out.

“I was in a shelter in Hillbrow, but we didn’t get enough food, so I left. My ID burnt last year, I haven’t been able to replace it because I don’t have the R140 [to pay for it]. I don’t make enough on the streets and I also depend on substances,” he told City Press.

Kagiso Mokoena (29), who is also homeless, goes to the shelter to sleep but hustles to make money during the day.

Read: Covid-19: Some homeless people choose streets over shelters

“How can I survive on just three slices of bread? I have been homeless for the past five to six years and I have two kids to support. I have to hustle and make money,” Mokoena said.

“I cannot go home and depend on my grandmother to provide for me because she survives on a social grant. If I were to get the R350 I’d be able to contribute to the family.”

Everyday Mokoena helps shoppers by carrying their groceries or other heavy items to their cars for small change.

“Since the lockdown began, I barely make R20 a day. People say they don’t have money, so they don’t use my services as often anymore. I have a matric certificate and hopes of making it [in life], but it’s tough,” he said.

Kagiso Mokoena
The department of social development said it was aware of such complaints about food and acknowledged that, given the current crisis the food is not be enough to satisfy everyone.

“The challenge has been that in some shelters, while there is provision for three meals a day, some of the homeless people want to eat more for breakfast which means others will hardly get [food],” said Lumka Oliphant, the department’s spokesperson.

“We also understand that some of the complaints could be based on the culture of being on the streets – eating as much as they can at once because there is no certainty where the next meal will come from.”

The department also called on both the shelters and the beneficiaries to abide by the code of conduct which deals with issues of respect, non-use of intoxicating substances and adherence to confinement until the situation returns to normal.

“We are determined to do all in our power to ensure that the homeless people get access to nutritious meals, medication for those who may be on some treatment – either for substance abuse or chronic illnesses – and access to proper sanitation and shelter,” said Oliphant.