Durban-based drug use expert Professor Monique Marks has called on government entities to ensure the provision of health services at shelters where homeless people are being kept to protect them from getting infected with COVID-19.
Marks said that the cities of Durban, Pretoria and Cape Town had done good work in taking homeless people off the streets during the nationwide lockdown.
She said that access to health services would assist officials in ensuring that the homeless – a large number of whom were drug users – did not attempt to leave the temporary shelters and risk their lives as well of those they came into contact with.
Various cities in the country are working around the clock to ensure the provision of temporary shelters to the homeless in a bid to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
However, some homeless people who were drug users were refusing to remain within the shelters as they had to live under strict conditions that prohibited them from accessing drugs.
Marks said that health facilities within the shelters should be able to assist those who may experience withdrawal symptoms.
“I think that for most people, if they know their withdrawals will be managed in a way that takes account of the very, very traumatic experiences of drug withdrawal, which we shouldn’t undermine for a second, then I think that the tendency to want to leave will be less.”
Marks also said that police placed at the shelters should ensure that homeless people felt safe around them as opposed to fearing being harassed.
For official information about COVID-19 from the Department of Health, please click here.