Scores of homeless people have dignity restored with showers, food and clean clothes

Student with heart brings care and hope to BCM vagrants

WSU student, Athenkosi Quku, start a mobile shower for the homeless in East London.
WSU student, Athenkosi Quku, start a mobile shower for the homeless in East London.
Image: SUPPLIED

Homeless people, dirty and in rags, emerge from pipes, culverts and ruins when Athenkoski Quko and friends arrive on Saturday.

They know that caring humans have arrived to give them a shower, a meal and friendship in a disassociated, indifferent, dangerous society.

The Walter Sisulu University business administration student and his peers started the non-profit organisation Humanity and Care in 2020 for homeless people they got to know across East London.

On Saturdays they arrive, and offer the shower, food and other essentials such as clothing.

“I started the showers after I found an abandoned trailer and turned it into a mobile shower unit,” Quko said.  

The drive to provide end-of-the-road care to sad, desperate and abandoned people was inspired by the horrifying experience of watching a young school friend become homeless and hooked on harmful drugs.

“I do not know where he ended up, but I told myself that when I grow up, I will change lives, empower homeless people and give them the dignity we all deserve,” Quko said.

The NPO runs two mobile showers and kitchens that travel around East London looking for homeless people in need of a little TLC.

Quko is not beholden to a higher power, department or company and is passionate about the NGO’s independence, saying: “Humanity and Care is non-politically affiliated, nonracial and wants to improve skills, enhance talent, bring change and improve the dignity of homeless people.”

With the help of friends and family, and his own bucks, Quku built the showers and bought food.

While some students use their NSFAS allowance cash for partying, he sacrifices this cash and spends it on groceries for the mobile kitchen.

The group usually finds the vagrants in the CBD area, as some sleep under bridges, in pipes, and in old buildings. 

“When we arrive, they arrive in numbers, as they already know we will provide them with a meal. I am helping 99 people so far,” he said.

“We sometimes find out that some people haven’t had a meal or a bath for a couple of days. It is my hope and dream to change that situation they live in.”

“I only ask for donations of clothes, as some of the people do not have warm clothes. With winter approaching, we hope to get blankets, as the places they use for shelter do not provide any warmth,” he said.  

Quku’s friend and nominator, Polela Maru, said: “He has reunited some people with their families. Humanity and Care aims to bring dignity to the lives of homeless people, who now have hope of getting a second chance in life. With confidence comes a desire to be  productive.

“Humanity and Care is helping a lot in decreasing crime, and they also help those who are abusing substance through counselling.

“Athenkosi has been an inspiration to many. He is also uplifting homeless people through this initiative. People do not choose to be homeless, they find themselves in  that situation and desperately need a helping hand,” said Maru.

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