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Durban lives up to its reputation as a UNESCO City of Literature

Director Denis Hurley Centre: Raymond Perrier Deputy Mayor, eThekwini: Belinda Scott Street Lit vendor: Vusi Meyiwa Director of Operations, KZN Region, Tsogo Sun: Samantha Croft Illa Thompson Director Denis Hurley Centre: Raymond Perrier Deputy Mayor, eThekwini: Belinda Scott Street Lit vendor: Vusi Meyiwa Director of Operations, KZN Region, Tsogo Sun: Samantha Croft

1000 books sold by formerly homeless DHC book vendors

January 16, 2020

Staff reporter

KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa: In just two weeks over the Festive Season, more than 1,000 books were sold on the Durban beachfront to holidaymakers which produced a substantial income of over R20,000 for the homeless men and women who were set up as booksellers by the Denis Hurley Centre as part of their Street Lit project. The Street Lit project aims to put books back on the streets and in the hands of people who really want to read but cannot necessarily afford new books.

The beachfront sales showed that there is a substantial market for books and that there are homeless people with great skills as booksellers.

"Just as everyone has the chance to enjoy the beach, everyone should have the chance to read on the beach," commented Raymond Perrier, Director of the Denis Hurley Centre.

"By offering books at R10 or R20 each, Street Lit is making sure that Durban lives up to its accolade as a UNESCO City of Literature."

Richard Nzima one of the booksellers, who until a few months ago was sleeping rough on the streets of Durban, was overwhelmed by the support from the general public. "So many people came up to us to say what a great idea this was. One couple from Jo'burg asked us to come and start the project to help homeless people there!"

People loved taking photos with the booksellers in their distinctive uniforms sponsored by Jonsson Workwear. Pat Khumalo, another bookseller, joked that they might one day be as much a part of the Durban beachfront as the Ricksha drivers or the bikini-clad surfers! More seriously he was pleased with the First Aid training the team had been given by St John.

"I was twice able to step in and help someone who was knocked over by a bike," he explained proudly.

The project was effective because of the partnership between the Denis Hurley Centre, churches around the city who donated books, the Municipality who granted the permits and corporate partners including Tsogo Sun who helped by providing storage and overnight security. DHC’s Stuart Talbot, project co-ordinator, commented that this was a true example of all the parts of Durban working together.

The Festive Season was an experiment which has really proven its worth. Perrier, who is also Chair of the eThekwini Task Team on Homelessness, is confident that the Deputy Mayor will want to see the pilot expand.

"We hope to have a regular permit for several points along the beachfront. Thereafter the scope is to use our mobile book trolleys to have book sales all-round the city centre, at taxi ranks or in open areas. We have proven that is a thirst for good books at affordable prices - and we have given some homeless people a chance to turn their lives around."