Mayor Mzukisi Mpahlwa has assured residents in the Scotts Farm and Albany Road areas that they will get their community hall back soon. This comes as the Recreation Hall in Albany Road has remained occupied by homeless people for close to a year. The venue can normally seat around 500 people (fewer under Covid protocols and under normal circumstances is regularly used for everything from funerals to dance classes.
The facility was identified as a lockdown shelter for homeless people in April 2020, at the start of the Covid-19 lockdown. Officials from the Department of Social Development found that of the 26 people living at the landfill at the time, four met the full criteria for being homeless; however, 15 were identified for removal to the temporary shelter.
Former councillor Lena May earlier this month accompanied a group of Scotts Farm residents to the ward office adjoining the hall. On behalf of fellow councillor Brian Fargher, Brian Jackson met the group and heard a number of grievances.
Issues surrounding the latest water crisis were at the top of the list for the delegation. Safety and the high rate of crime and drugs in the area was another concern.
They were irked at the continued occupation of the community venue by two individuals and demanded they be removed, and the hall returned to the community.
“We used to use this hall every weekend,” May told GMDirect. “Funerals, weddings, dancing – everything happens here.”
Makana’s Covid Joint Operating Committee (JOC) made the decision to house homeless people there during the pandemic. Mayor Mzukisi Mpahlwa is the head of the JOC and so GMDirect asked him what the plan is for the venue and its current occupants.
“We’ve been made aware of the community’s unhappiness with the fact that the hall is still occupied,” Mpahlwa said. “A decision was made in the JOC to change that, but there is a process that must be followed.”
Mpahlwa said both occupants had families living in Makhanda who were willing to take them back.
He said there had never been more than 10 people living in the temporary shelter at any one time.
“The spinoff was that there were two guards on duty at all times, and so the theft and vandalism that usually happens there simply didn’t.
However, the lockdown occupants would be sent home “soon”.