Alexandra township: COVID-19 poses unique risk to the homeless and Nyaope addicts

By Monti Montsha

The fact that while the rest of the Alexandra population – nearly 395,000 people- stay at home during lockdown, the vulnerable, the homeless and nyaope addicts have no choice but to sleep on the streets, and this has become a major concern.

Nyaope addicts and the homeless people of Alexandra Township are at particular risk of contracting the coronavirus. Covid-19 hits people over 60 years of age and those with pre-existing health conditions the hardest.

The virus is easily spread through touching and by lack of proper hygiene. People experiencing drug addiction and the homeless are increasingly becoming ill. Many in the streets of Alex and Johannesburg have underlying health conditions, but the government- in my view- fails to give them access to primary care. They struggle to access public bathrooms to maintain basic hygiene.

Proper hygiene practices can prevent transmission, health experts say, but that is likely to be a challenge for homeless people. Some of them are mentally challenged and do not have the capacity to help themselves get access to basic housing and shelter.

“We as the municipality have been going to taxi ranks, churches, malls, clinics, hostels, and Schools- before they were closed, to offer sanitizers and dust masks. Unfortunately, we didn’t go as far as to reach out to the homeless and Nyaope addicts, but we thank you for alerting us about that part of our community puzzle,” Machoga (municipality representative) said.

“The education we are giving our staff going out and working with this population is to make people not think they are going to die but that they are going to fight together with the government to win against this virus,”  Machoga added.

An anonymous source from the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), said that they promise to deal with the issue appropriately and in the spirit of protecting every citizen in the country. Some of the NGO’S also announced that they would open their doors for those in need of social care. All activities are postponed in community halls due to the Coronavirus, as the pandemic spreads in Johannesburg.

One of the homeless nyaope addicts accused the government of failing to include them in the strict national lockdown to halt the spread of the Coronavirus.

‘’Bosso I think the skop and donor is going to be applied to us, because we can’t stay at home. As you can see, our home is literally the streets. We must be on the streets hustling for the next fix because the cravings are vicious; they are so painful that one will be forced to go out,” said the homeless man.

No soldier can stop us from doing that when a fix is needed in the system, I must go get one. Maybe the government should have made plans for us to get some sort of medication from rehabilitation centers to calm us down or make as quit if ever that is possible,” he added.

Some of the community members try to help the homeless and nyaope addicts by giving them bar soaps and food, but instead they take them and sell them for other use. For the 21 day lockdown period, people on the streets say it is their human right to demand tents or any other type of shelter to keep their distance from others or self- isolate if they show any symptoms.

(Names have been omitted to protect the identity of the individual)

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