JOHANNNESBURG – In the fight against the Coronavirus Covid-19 (Covid-19), thousands of homeless and vulnerable people in the city are faced with a great safety dilemma – where to self-isolate in order to avoid the spread of the virus. Inner city NPO Mould Empower Serve (MES), which operates in Hillbrow, Cape Town, Kempton Park and Port Elizabeth, has stepped in to help the marginalised people of these inner cities during this critical time. Since the official announcement by president Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa declaring a national lockdown, MES has kept its shelter operations and food distribution points open to help the high numbers of vulnerable people who came to their doorstep for assistance.

The call for all citizens to stay at home in order to help flatten-the-curve of the Covid-19 has proven effective when implemented in other countries across the world, however, South Africa also hosts hundreds of thousands of homeless people with no place to find shelter even under normal circumstances, especially those in the inner-city metropolitan areas in the country.

“There is a whole community of over 100 000 homeless people in Johannesburg alone who are often subject to many communicable or pre-existing illnesses already, and yet have no place to self-isolate,” says Leona Pienaar, Chief Executive Officer of MES. The NPO reports that there has been significant progress since their initial appeal to the public for donations and is thankful for the support. “So far we have been able to distribute food parcels to vulnerable families in our care, we waived fees for creche parents for April, keep our shelters open, clean and safe, and offered healthy meals to those residing in our shelters during this period and we are extremely grateful for the support!” she says.

“Both our shelters in Johannesburg are operating at full capacity, as well as the one in Kempton Park and in Port Elizabeth. The Cape Town shelter is also at full capacity with a waiting list of over 300 people,” Pienaar states. “We have been working with the Department of Social Development officials across the country to take in more people at all our shelters. I. support of the City of Johannesburg, we opened up our Impilo facility in Hillbrow (formerly a HIV/Aids hospice) as an additional facility to accommodate a new intake of homeless women and disabled people,” she adds.

Thirty clients including eight with disabilities were placed at the facility over the weekend. “Unfortunately, fifteen of the women decided to leave the premises due to drug withdrawal symptoms. However, we have eight women that are now on the SANCA programme as they are determined to make a change,” Pienaar states. MES stated they will continue to place women at the shelter, thirty at a time to settle them in until they reach the facility’s capacity of one hundred.


MES is appealing to the general public and all organisations for assistance during this critical time in order to fully capacitate the additional emergency shelter. Public can indicate their willingness to help on e-mail or WhatsApp 066 371 5787 and MES will arrange collection of the donations.

Cleaning and hygiene materials:

  • Toilet paper
  • Paper Towels (URGENT)
  • Sanitary pads
  • Washing powder and sunlight soap to encourage washing of clothes
  • Soap & Hand Sanitizers (Savlon/ Dettol, liquid bath soap and shampoo and Jik)
  • Towels
  • Pillows, blankets and bedding
  • Clothing

Kitchen and food items:

  • Tea, Coffee, Long life Milk, Sugar, Juices/Concentrate
  • Easy food – bread, breakfast cereal, cup-a-soup, oats-so-easy, oranges, tin food, mealie meal, rice and other non-perishable items etc.
  • Polystyrene cups, plates and cutlery

Medical / Protective gear:

  • Non-contact thermometers
  • Masks
  • Gloves

For financial contributions of any amount, you may deposit your donation to:

ABSA bank account name MES General

Account number: 3240140208 on Branch code: 632005 or Swift code: ABSAZAJJ

Reference: CovidHelp

As members of the community that live by the spirit of Ubuntu, we all have a role to play to ensure we protect those less privileged to do so themselves currently. Please ensure you alert relevant authorities should you find a homeless person whom you suspect to have the Coronavirus Covid-19.



Media statement issued by Willem Eksteen (MES Board member and CEO of Stone) on behalf of MES.

Please direct all media enquiries and/or media interview requests to:


MES is a Christian social development organisation that has been changing the heart of the city since 1986 and has been actively working towards providing sustainable solutions to pervasive poverty in the inner city of Johannesburg, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Kempton Park.

The initial vision for MES was born in 1986 when the Johannesburg East Dutch Reformed Church started with an outreach programme that handed out food parcels to the homeless and unemployed community of Hillbrow. In 1989 the project registered as a Section 21 company (1989/004921/08) with an independent Board of Directors. Currently the organization is a registered Not for Profit Company (1989/004921/08), NPO (023 603), PBO (RG/0012/09/04) and has Section 18 A (tax benefit) status.

MES facilitates professional services to vulnerable individuals, families and communities. The core services are implemented in each branch depending on the need of the community and available resources. An integrated approach is followed ensuring holistic service delivery contributing to restoration and empowerment where a model of Intake/prevention; intervention and sustainable exit is followed.