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Many homeless people call the streets of Tzaneen home

The number of homeless people of all races in Tzaneen, especially in the CBD, has increased exponentially.

According to Molokgadi Molepo, a social worker at the Department of Social Services, the town’s homeless people have grown in the last few months. “In 2021 we recorded about 33 people who were homeless. It is difficult to say exactly how many there are currently, but it has increased,” she says. She says the statistics from 2021 are from the Covid-19 pandemic when the department had to provide shelter for the homeless.

A homeless man who wanders around Peace Street next to Hollywood Bets begging for food told the Herald that he is originally from Cape Town. He came to Tzaneen with his family decades ago and attended a well-known high school in Tzaneen. “I used to work at my family’s two restaurants in town, which all eventually closed down. When my parents passed on, life turned difficult. “ I also worked at another popular eatery here in town.

One of the homeless people, sleeping outside a shop at Morgan Street.

Also read: Tzaneen businesses turning into homeless shelters at night

“Eventually, I lost everything I had. I don’t have family around, no cell phone, and my cousins live in Pretoria,” he said. His challenge is to have enough food to eat every day, but he dreams of having a fresh start in life. His hands and arms are covered with eczema which is painful, and he says he hopes to have it treated. Molepo says in most cases people who end up on the streets come to town for a better life and when they do not fi nd work, they do not return home.

Homeless man’s hands covered in eczema.

They end up begging for money and food. She says most also fi nd it hard to return home because of substance abuse. According to her, the department tries to reach out and assess their situations individually. “We even visit their families, and sometimes find that conditions are not that bad at home. “We also take them to rehabilitation centres, but they mostly quit the rehab programmes.

Homeless man at peace street asking for R2 to buy coffee

“Families of homeless people call us back informing us that they have gone back to the streets, just weeks after we reunited them.” According to Hannes Steyn of Kruispad, a congregation that assists the homeless in town, they intend to start a street cafe initiative soon in Peace Street next to Hollywood Bets where the homeless can enjoy cooked meals. Last year they ran the same project during the winter months between June and August.

“The project was initiated by one of our congregants and we supported the person with his work. However, as a church, we also donate clothes that we collect.” Email emelda@herald.co.za if you would like to help the gentleman who needs medical assistance for his eczema or with piece jobs

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