cans with purpose Meals - Serving the inner city and homeless community during COVID-19 lockdown
Photo Cred: Good Things Guy Stock Image | Supplied | On File

As members of the community that live by the spirit of Ubuntu, we all have a role to play to ensure we protect those less privileged to do so themselves currently.


Johannesburg, South Africa (31 March 2020) – In the fight against the Coronavirus COVID-19 thousands of homeless and vulnerable people in the city are faced with a great safety dilemma – where to self-isolate to avoid the spread of the virus.

Inner-city NPO Mould Empower Serve (MES), which operates in Hillbrow, Cape Town, Kempton Park and Port Elizabeth, has stepped in to help the marginalised people of these inner cities during this critical time. Since the official announcement by president Mr Cyril Ramaphosa declaring a national lockdown, MES has kept its shelter operations and food distribution points open to help the high numbers of vulnerable people who came to their doorstep for assistance.

The call for all citizens to stay at home to help flatten-the-curve of the COVID-19 has proven effective when implemented in other countries across the world. However, South Africa also hosts hundreds of thousands of homeless people with no place to find shelter even under normal circumstances, especially those in the inner-city metropolitan areas in the country.

“There is a whole community of over 100 000 homeless people in Johannesburg alone who are often subject to many communicable or pre-existing illnesses already, and yet have no place to self-isolate,” says Leona Pienaar, Chief Executive Officer of MES. 

The NPO reports that there has been significant progress since their initial appeal to the public for donations and is thankful for the support.

“So far we have been able to distribute over a 100 food parcels to vulnerable families in our care, we waived fees for creche parents for April for over 300 families, keep our shelters open, clean and safe, and offered two healthy meals per day to those residing in our shelters during this period and we are extremely grateful for the support!” she says. 

The Cape Town branch feeds approximately 800 homeless people daily in collaboration with VRCID and local churches since there is not yet enough alternative accommodation options available.

“Both our shelters in Johannesburg are operating at full capacity, as well as the one in Kempton Park and in Port Elizabeth. The Cape Town Safe Space is also at full capacity with a waiting list of over 300 people,” Pienaar states. 

“We have been working with the Department of Social Development officials across the country to take in more people at all our shelters. MES opened up our Impilo facility in Jeppestown (formerly an HIV/Aids hospice) as an additional facility to accommodate a new intake of homeless women and disabled people in collaboration with DSD and the City of Johannesburg. This facility provides options to isolate should the need arise,” she adds.

Thirty clients, including eight with disabilities, were placed at the facility over the weekend.

“Unfortunately, fifteen of the women decided to leave the premises due to severe drug withdrawal symptoms. However, we have six women, and one male that is now on the SANCA programme as they are determined to make a change,” Pienaar states. 

MES stated they will continue to place women at the shelter, thirty at a time to settle them in until they reach the facility’s capacity of one hundred. Two pensioners were assisted to collect their grants on Monday, and on Sunday a joyful family reunification took place when a sixteen-year-old boy was escorted home after he was placed in safety with MES for one night. The joy of the mother was overwhelming.


MES is appealing to the general public and all organisations for assistance during this critical time to fully capacitate the additional emergency shelter. The public can indicate their willingness to help on e-mail or WhatsApp 066 371 5787 and MES will arrange collection of the donations.

Cleaning and hygiene materials:

  • Toilet paper
  • Paper Towels (URGENT)
  • Sanitary pads
  • Washing powder and sunlight soap to encourage washing of clothes
  • Soap & Hand Sanitizers (Savlon/ Dettol, liquid bath soap and shampoo and Jik)
  • Towels
  • Pillows, blankets and bedding
  • Clothing

Kitchen and food items:

  • Tea, coffee, long-life milk, sugar, juices/concentrate
  • Easy food – bread, breakfast cereal, cup-a-soup, oats-so-easy, oranges, tin food, mealie meal,rice and other non-perishable items etc.
  • Polystyrene cups, plates and cutlery

Medical / Protective gear:

  • Non-contact thermometers
  • Masks
  • Gloves

For financial contributions of any amount, you may deposit your donation to:

ABSA bank account name MES General
Account number: 3240140208 on Branch code: 632005 or Swift code: ABSAZAJJ Reference: CovidHelp

As members of the community that live by the spirit of Ubuntu, we all have a role to play to ensure we protect those less privileged to do so themselves currently. Please ensure you alert relevant authorities should you find a homeless person whom you suspect to have the Coronavirus COVID-19.

Source: Mould Empower Serve
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Brent Lindeque is the founder and editor in charge at Good Things Guy.

Recognised as one of the Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South African’s as well as a Primedia LeadSA Hero, Brent is a change maker, thought leader, radio host, foodie, vlogger, writer and all round good guy.

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