NGOs take a knock due to lockdown

Employees Shahieda Blouws, left and Liz Weiner carrying toiletries at St Annes Homes.

Shelters for abused women and children are feeling the strain during lockdown as a result of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

Joy Lange, executive director of St Anne’s Homes in Woodstock, which takes care of abused women and children, said they have 24 clients among whom are women and children who need support during this stressful time.

“As an essential service; we will remain open and we have 13 staff members who will continue to serve our clients during this lockdown.”

Ms Lange said while her staff were feeling the stress of working under the threat of Covid-19, they were hanging in there. Ms Lange said even though they had managed to cope with food and supplies before the lockdown, it would get tough as non-profit organisations may take a huge knock.

The Mater Domini Home in Claremont that takes care of destitute pregnant women said the Covid-19 pandemic was an additional stress on the already stressful lives that the women at the home endured.

Bernadette Ross, chairperson of Mater Domini, said they were taking care of 10 pregnant women, three babies, two toddlers and one child and four babies were expected to be born in the coming weeks.

“We will be creating group projects to keep the residents occupied during this time and we have made our own masks and hand sanitiser so that we are not completely dependent on donations,” said Ms Ross.

Ms Ross said one of the biggest concerns they faced was transporting pregnant women to hospital for appointments. She said her organisation normally depended on collecting food donations from the retailers’ food waste, and she was concerned that due to the lockdown they would be able to collect food.

Sisters Incorporated in Kenilworth, which takes care of women and children from abusive homes, is taking care of the 23 residents staying there during the lockdown.

Manager Delene Roberts said during the lockdown they have rostered three to four staff members which includes a night manager who stays overnight. “The staff remain positive amid the crisis.

“We start our day with a devotion and a prayer each morning and this carry us through the day,” she said.

Ms Roberts said a challenge they faced during the lockdown was that their volunteers who normally brought their food to them would not be able to do so due to the restrictions in place.

Ms Roberts and her team also go bulk shopping for their residents; something they feel that they must now explain to retailers as they are serving many people as part of rendering an essential service.

“We also have our residents, some who don’t see eye to eye, who on normal days could go to the shop or go out on weekends. We understand their frustration though and intervene when these issues arise.”

Ms Roberts said because new intakes first need to go to another government shelter for two weeks for health screening before they get sent to their shelter, it gives them peace that everything will be okay.

Dr Zubeda Dangor, head of executive of the National Shelter Movement of South Africa, said while the lockdown was a much-needed and proven intervention, it was important that the most vulnerable of society were not left to fend for themselves.

“We cannot ignore the increased risks, especially for the victims of domestic violence and abuse, who will actually be more isolated than ever,” she said.

Joshua Chigome, spokesperson for the provincial Department of Social Development, said services to victims of crime and violence is an essential service and thus the provincial department and civil society organisations will continue to provide services to victims of crime and violence through provision of shelter services and psychosocial support.

In line with Covid-19 measures, the department has identified four shelters known as their stage one shelters where at-risk-victims of crime and violence will be screened by health officials in a 14-day isolation period.

“Once the victims clear that stage they will be transferred to stage two shelters which are the women’s shelters that are recognised non-profits by the department.

All the above shelters or assisted living centres that are running as essential services still require help with non-perishable goods, toiletries, cleaning detergents, protective gear and financial support during this crisis.

To get in touch with St Anne’s Homes, you can visit www.stanneshomes.org.za/ or call 021 448 6792 or email joy@stanneshomes.org.za

To reach Sisters Incorporated, you can email manager@sisters.org.za, call 072 898 4565 or visit www.sisters.org.za

To reach Mater Domini, you can visit http://materdomini.net/ or call or WhatsApp message 061 052 3650.

Anyone who is experiencing any form of abuse can contact the the Department of Social Development’s Gender-Based Violence Command Centre (GBVCC), which has a 24/7 call centre number 0800 428 428. You can also SMS “help” to 31531 or call the police on 10111.

“The facility employs social workers who are responsible for call taking and call referrals,” said Mr Chigome.