Elderly home tenants bemoan unhygienic living conditions

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A group of elders have accused the government of neglect and poor care after their old retirement homes have been left without maintenance for years.

Ford Court and Bertha Solomon homes in Jeppestown, Joburg, are falling apart with burst pipes.

“There hasn’t been maintenance in this place for more than 23 years. The geysers are broken. They rely on one unit and travel up and down to get hot water which isn’t safe for them. The roofs are leaking, the gutters and drains are blocked. The windows and doors were broken, and they have to fix them themselves out of the small money they have, and they are still expected to pay rent,” said Imelda Carpyde a regular visitor at the homes.

Cedric Arends, an elderly in his early 70, who has been living at the home for the past 16 years, said there has been a lack of care from both sides of the social department and human settlement in the city.

“The people who come here, would only come once and then they would disappear. We had to get help to cut down the overgrown trees, the [grass] was also overgrown. When the cleaning lady does come, we ask her why she doesn’t come often and she says the city doesn’t provide her with the necessary equipment to come regularly,” said Arends.

Arends recalled a sewage pipe that had burst in the court, preventing them from getting out of their homes.

“It smelled bad, it flooded the whole front porch of our homes and would come in through the doors into our houses. We had to block the doors with towels and cloths to stop the sewerage from coming inside. We got help from the security guard and we managed to unplug the drains and clean the sewage. I poured Jeyes fluid on the ground, but you can still smell the stench of the kak,” said Arends.

The municipality’s human settlement department is the custodian of the property and responsible for property management. The department said it was aware of the complains raised by the tenants but is dependent on responses from contractors to address issues.

“The city has been attending to maintenance issues using a three quotation system and that system is solely dependent on the response from contractors which at times is slow,” said the city’s spokesperson Nthatisi Modingoane.

Modingoane also added that tenants have some responsibility towards their own units.

“It’s also imperative to note that some complaints that come through to the department are the sole responsibility of the occupiers of units and not necessarily due to poor workmanship,” said Modingoane.

Another tenant, Victoria Msimanga, 78, said in her 20 years living at the court, a social worker had visited the court less than five times.

“There was order back then and there were people who would come and clean and do regular check-ups on us but now, the only time I remember seeing a social worker was when they had to break down a door when someone had died,” said Msimanga.

Arends said social workers are supposed to check on the villages regularly as there have residents who need to be in frail care facilities.

“These units are for elders who can take care of themselves and don’t need assistance to get around but there’s a man here who is sick and he needs to go to frail care,” said Arends.

The social development department in the city said there are two social workers who have been assigned to the area and are only available upon request.

“Social development [Targeted Beneficiaries Unit] has two social workers in Region F who are dealing with cases ranging from the elderly, persons with disabilities, women and youth. Social workers are always available for case intervention as and when required and requested,” said the department’s executive director, Matome Makgoba.