The bitter cold of the past few days has been particularly hard on the homeless.
While some people admire the “winter wonderland” and others marvel over a frozen-over swimming pool, but for some, simply staying alive and warm is a wonder for many homeless people.
The Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Braamfontein sees some of the most desperate struggling to survive, and the Covid-19 pandemic has made matters even worse. To provide some sustenance, the church runs a food kitchen from Monday to Friday, but because of the ban on gatherings, it has to do it outside now.
It is there the homeless at least get a hot meal, or a cup of soup, or some sandwiches to get them through the winter cold. Funding is not as good as it could be, with churches closed and the collection plates not making its usual rounds for tithes.
But a loyal group of congregants and benefactors have kept up their EFT donations – from small amounts of R100 – and donations of warm blankets.
“They are struggling,” said the church’s Covid-19 response chairperson, Prudence Xaba, of the homeless in the city.
“Even their blankets disappear,” added Xaba who also co-ordinates the soup kitchen. “We are seeing new faces,” she said of the toll the pandemic and the cold were taking. “We don’t see many of the older faces.”
The church is never sure whether it will have enough food to go around and wrote to major supermarket chains recently to ask for donations. However, the devastating unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng happened, and it has not heard back yet as the chains are focus on recovering what they lost.
A nice surprise waited for it this week from law enforcement members – who dropped donations of meat, soup ingredients, pap, tinned food, milk and sugar – from donors in Soweto.
This means that Monday night’s soup kitchen should have something nice for all who gather for a meal. While they are there, students from the University of Witwatersrand’s medical school volunteer at a small makeshift clinic, under the supervision of their faculty seniors, to provide some basic health care.
The church also has people on hand to help the homeless reapply for lost IDs, or filling in SA Social Security Agency grant applications.
Meanwhile, the City of Johannesburg said people were at a greater risk of fire when it was so cold because they sometimes fell asleep with a fire or a stove on just to keep warm.
On Friday morning, at least 36 people lost their homes during a shack fire in Vrededorp.