Moving into Level 3 – with caution


As South Africa moves this week into Level 3 lockdown, it is a step into the unknown. The emergency shelters set up by the Municipality are still in place and housing 1,500 homeless men and women. Since all the people are there voluntarily, we cannot be sure if they will want to continue to stay, especially when they see more people moving around. Among the 100 men who had been staying at the Denis Hurley Centre, we have successfully managed to reconnect a number of them with their families. In addition, three men have been selected to move to the Napier Centre 4 Healing. This means that the detox that the lockdown forced them into will get reinforced through a fuller rehabilitation programme over a number of months. But we do see that there are homeless people back on the streets and are keen to make sure we can serve them. We are therefore planning to re-open our feeding programme from the middle of June. We are giving ourselves time to assess how we can prepare and distribute food in a way that minimises infection risks among volunteers and the homeless themselves. We are assuming that we will need to double our capacity and go up to 400 lunches and also try to cover 7 days a week (up from our usual 5). To achieve this, we will need volunteers and we know that some of our previous groups of volunteers will not be available.  Let us know if you are interested in signing up – preferably if you can make a regular commitment to the same 1 or 2 days each week. We are also interested if you think you could do part of the work in your own home or place of worship. And we are also keen to hear from other organisations who will work with us and also create a network of other NGOs serving breakfasts, so we can concentrate on preparing one good cooked meal a day. Please contact us if you think you can help in any way. This image from before lockdown shows clearly the challenge we face of how toserve food to hundreds of people in a way that keeps them safe and fed. The ‘corona’ t-shirt was clearly an omen!   
 What have Religious Organisations been doing? There has been much focus in the media on religious organisations now being allowed to re-open for services – and how well they will be able to enforce the very strict rules to minimise the risk of infection. But for the last 9 weeks of lockdown the faith communities have not been idle. In fact, their role in collecting money and food and distributing to people in need has been life-saving. We continue to encourage our supporters to contribute to organisations that are running food distribution projects. Stand-out among those are the KZN Christian Council working with Domino Foundation which has helped almost 30,000 poor families across the Province. Their model of food vouchers is especially effective since it means money is by being spent in local communities and so supporting local jobs. We also commend our many Muslim partners including the Iqraa Trust who have donated over R1M to support different welfare organisations tackling COVID; in addition they have distributed 1,000 food parcels themselves and have also worked with partners to distribute many more in townships around Durban. For the rest of the country, the annual Winterhoop programme (with which we partnered last year) has just been launched. It enables people to make donations of goods and cash through local churches which are then distributed to people in need. The way in which religious groups have adapted their forms of worship has been commendable. And if even some people do now go back to services, socially distant forms of worshipping can continue to keep people safe. We were pleased, for example, that the Interfaith Ifthaar that we usually organise for the last week of Ramadan, happened in a virtual way, organised by our old friend Aslam Mayet and enabled dozens of people to participate. One of the examples of the work of KZNCC is Richards Bay where 5 churches are working together to collect and distribute food.  Jason Currie (in the grey t-shirt) has also now become part of the National Homeless Network.   
 Being in the Zoom Room Most of our welfare and healthcare work necessarily continues to be face-to-face. We have spent money to introduce the necessary personal protective equipment to ensure that we provide services in a way which is healthy and safe. But we have also had to embrace the new world of virtual meetings and have actually found some benefits.
 The Denis Hurley Centre Trustees have had several meetings using on-line platforms; this has enabled us to organise meetings at much shorter notice and have an almost 100% rate of attendance. We have also noticed that meetings tend to be shorter and more focused. The eThekwini Task Team has re-emerged as the Deputy Mayor’s Homeless Committee and has held its first successful on-line meeting with dozens of participants. (This change of model has also given our Director the chance to step down as Chair after almost 2 years of service).
 Presentations of our work, that have always been a big part of creating awareness and building public profile, have also continued but now on-line. For example, our Director did presentations to the newly-formed KZN Catholic Business Forum and to a Rotary E-club which included people from New Zealand to Canada. All of this from the comfort of his own laptop! So if you have a group that is meeting virtually – anywhere in the world – and want some input from the Denis Hurley Centre please let us know. Everyone’s increasing comfort with ‘zooming’ has the benefit that a meeting with folks further afield is no harder than with local people. So the National Homeless Network has been meeting every week, enabling up to 8 towns and cities to catch up with what is going on around the country and also support each other. And we are this week holding a brainstorming across three continents on how to improve our website.  A now familiar site to so many of us: an arrray of faces from around the city,the country and the world all connected in an on-line meeting: in this case,a Rotary E-Club spanning 19 time zones and 9 countries.   
 Story-Telling on- and off-line A group of men staying under lockdown at the DHC have brought their creative ideas and lived experiences together to write, direct, and perform in a short film. ‘No Kings of the Street’ was written and directed by Sandile Mthembu, produced by Lwazi Sithole, and made entirely with a cast and crew of men staying at the DHC, assisted by two Durban-based filmmakers, Michael James and Jared Hinde. The 20-minute film serves as a cautionary tale of life on the streets told by people who have experienced these harsh realities first-hand and can be watched on You Tube.

This film, made with zero budget, zero props, limited time, and two simple cameras, is testimony to the commitment and creativity of these men and to the human capacity to create meaning even in the midst of struggle and tribulation. It highlights the vital importance of story-telling as a way of connecting human beings beyond the confines of race, class, gender and faith. We as people each have our own part to tell of the essential human story – and to this end, we are proud of these men who were bold enough to begin telling their part of the tale.

The specific story of writer/ director Sandile Mthembu, is one of those featured in the work of Samora Chapman published in the Daily Maverick. You can still read those stories on-line and you can now purchase limited edition, signed prints of some of the photographs as a way of supporting the DHC, the artist and the person featured. Many thanks to Samora for his generosity and to Nikhil Tricam whose ink drawings of the city have been selling extremely well. Thanks also to UKZN Jazz Centre who – with 20 pianists and a paying audience of 170! – made our first ever on-line fundraising concert a great success.

Stories are, of course, intrinsic to the books sold by our Street Lit team. At Level 3, they can go back to selling but we are struggling to find venues – church services and arts events are not happening on any scale. But people are going back to offices and factories: so if you are running a workplace please invite us to send in a bookseller who can offer some quality books at good prices to your staff. Contact Illa for more information. Sandile Mthembu is the subject of one of Samora Chapman’s striking photographs that are now for sale – and is also the writer/ director of our made-in-lockdown film.  
 Director: Raymond Perrier ( )
Bookings: Jean-Marie Ntamubano (
If you wish to donate to support our work, you can donate by EFT:
First National Bank Durban Main branch 221426
Account: Denis Hurley Centre Trust A/C No. 622 0426 1002

For more information, and to donate from outside South Africa, see: