Source: Independent Newspapers, Sunday Tribune, Sunday, 14 July 2014 Vivian Atwood
The culmination of more than five years of research, the plans received the full support of the Durban Chamber of Commerce and key industry and business leaders at the Vulnerable Groups Workshop for Business & Civil Society hosted by the chamber.
Darlene Menzies, who chairs the central committee of the chamber, said the strategies would unify the NGO sector, ensure the accreditation of all role players, provide one-stop training and job creation centres and increase the economic viability of marginalised people.
Menzies said a huge injection of capital in the city was a certainty with the introduction of the Integrated Rapid Public Transport Network (IRPTN), which would enter its first phase by 2016 and be completed in 2026.
The system would make affordable, safe and reliable transport accessible to 85 percent of the people (from 50 percent) and link communities with workplaces in the city.
The first phase is projected to cost R2.4 billion with park-and-ride facilities cutting congestion, and a series of public walkways created.
“It’s time to embrace change. Businesses must stake a claim before the boom puts property in the city out of their reach,” said Menzies.
She said while some could “only talk about urban decay and how things used to be”, Durban’s retail was pumping.
During the workshop, the municipality outlined the challenges to businesses as a result of the growing number of homeless and vulnerable people on Durban’s streets.
These include: occupation of public open spaces and abandoned buildings; damage to infrastructure; poorly managed distribution of food by NGOs; begging on streets and at intersections; public intimidation; the sale of drugs; petty crime and prostitution.
“The plight of our vulnerable people affects us all, and a sustainable solution needs a response from all of us – government, business and civil society,” said Menzies.
ADDRESSING SOCIAL ILLS
“This is a combined initiative by business and government to address social ills so that Durban can live up to its mandate of becoming Africa’s most caring and livable city by 2030.”
The research was underpinned by the iTrump Homeless Survey (2009); Street Children and Youth Research Programme (May 2009-August 2010), the Warwick Socio-Economic Development Framework Research Project (2010- 2013) and the Qalakabusha (new beginnings) Project in April.
The iTrump qualitative survey interviewed 360 homeless people over two weeks around the city, from the Point to Umgeni estuary, including Warwick Junction, Albert Park, Victoria Embankment and the CBD.
Among its findings were:
l Eighty-three percent were black men, with 2 percent of those surveyed white, 3 percent coloured and 1 percent Indian. Of those, 60 percent had been on the street for only up to six months. Most had some education, but almost none had reached matric.
l About 45 percent had a trade, but only 3 percent had a driving licence.
l For 70 percent, their main source of income was odd jobs.
l About 45 percent relied on street feeding schemes to survive and a further 26 percent on church charity.
l Forty-one percent never stayed in a shelter and only 23 percent had a cellphone.
“Their challenges are immense, but with a co-ordinated strategy they can participate fully in the economy,” said Menzies.
“One of the main issues holding them back is that the Department of Social Development is a provincial and national entity. The local office is not part of the eThekwini Municipality.
“The department provides grants, but most vulnerable people need immediate assistance with daily necessities – access to safe and affordable places to sleep, job centre and skills training, ablution facilities, storage space for possessions, and information, from where to get free eye tests and dentistry to what learnerships and jobs are available.”
She said the city strategy for street children had been to outsource tenders, but 33 organisations were working to help in the city and it was impossible to combine all their committees when they were trying to get the same government funding. There were pockets of excellence but there was also duplication and a lack of accreditation.
“It is vital that the government establish a single funded, mandated unit to drive all the strategies to uplift the vulnerable,” said Menzies.
“The city will get behind a shelter system, and a co-ordinated job creation and skills training centre, for which premises in Alice Street have already been earmarked.
“The centre will keep a database of the vulnerable people, their police clearance, identity details, aptitudes and qualifications, and facilitate training, acquiring driver’s licences and the brokering of job opportunities in a safe environment.
“With business behind government initiatives, and the introduction of the IRPTN, the city will scale new heights.
“There will be a new flavour to the Durban experience, and all our citizens will be included in an economic regeneration that will alleviate the worst of our social problems.”
She said people could help with the transformation by embracing informal trade rather than regarding it as an unavoidable evil.