GROWING numbers of vagrants and the homeless in Morningside has become a hot topic of debate among residents who have raised the issue with ward councillor Martin Meyer.
Meyer said complaints regarding vagrants living on the pavement outside a block of flats in Clarence Road as well as an influx of homeless people who have settled in the bushes off Peter Mokaba (North Ridge) Road, have become a challenging factor in dealing with issues in the ward.
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Residents in Clarence Road told Meyer and Berea Mail how a group of homeless people have set up an open air camp against their property wall and sprawls onto the pavement.
“This has been going on since around August. They consume alcohol and smoke dagga throughout the day in public, from morning till late in the evening. Their language is appalling and with families living in the block and walking past, this is not good. We also found marijuana growing in our garden which can only have come from them. They have been seen urinating on the trees and municipal bins on the pavement and litter into our property which creates a terrible smell and has now become a health hazard around our property,” said one resident, who asked not to be named.
Residents say their property values suffer as a consequence and that it negatively affects the area and the community.
“Our body corporate has reported this to Durban Metro Police on an ongoing basis but nothing gets done. Our managing agent has also been calling regularly to report the problem to the authorities,” she said.
Responding to the complaints, Meyer said the vagrancy issue in Clarence Road received constant attention from Metro and SAPS.
“I raise it at every COCOG meeting and have communicated with Metro Police about the matter,” he said.
In Peter Mokaba Road, residents live in constant fear that vagrants living in the nearby bushes will lay claim to the land.
“We have expressed concern at the lack of action on the part of the municipality and police on the issue of the vagrants living in the bush. We have asked for the municipality to clear and fence off the vacant land with immediate effect, arrange for the removal of the vagrants and arrange with SAPS and Metro Police to regularly inspect the area to ensure this is free from vagrants or land grabbers,” said Brian Noble, a trustees of Lady Ann Lodge in the road.
Meyer said he had met with the Parks Department, and had been told Parks had agreed to cut the bush back.
“Parks have agreed to try and divert some funding to fence the land on the Bridgeview Road side. I will stay on this matter with them. I have engaged with the new station commander at Mayville, and am busy talking to Metro Police as well. I have requested more regular patrols and a security inspection of the land,” he said.
He said plans for a long term solution had unfortunately been dragging.
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“The Real Estate Department of the city has been without people in its top structures for a long time, and only recently have acting people been appointed. This means that the process has to start afresh with them. I have asked for a meeting with the new acting head of Real Estate to try and solve the mystery of the land,” he said.
Regarding the issue of homelessness, Meyer said the challenge remains of what to do with the vagrants.
“City council has approved a shelter to be built but this will take many more months. Until then we will keep moving them away and they will keep returning. I will again engage with law enforcement and the CPF on these matters,” he said.