BACKGROUND : In order to contain the spread of COVID-19 in South Africa during the national state of emergency, the Gauteng Department of Social Development established temporary shelters and activated existing facilities to provide basic needs to street-homeless people in Tshwane, which facilitated primary health care service-delivery to this community.
AIM : This study aimed to determine and analyse the prevalence of mental health symptoms and demographic characteristics among street-homeless people living in Tshwane’s shelters during lockdown.
SETTING : Homeless shelters set up in Tshwane during level 5 of the COVID-19 lockdown in South Africa.
METHODS : A cross-sectional, analytical study was conducted using a Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5)-based questionnaire that looked at 13 mental health symptom domains.
RESULTS : Presence of moderate-to-severe symptoms were reported among the 295 participants as follows: substance use 202 (68%), anxiety 156 (53%), personality functioning 132 (44%), depression 85 (29%), sleep problems 77 (26%), somatic symptoms 69 (23%), anger 62 (21%), repetitive thoughts and behaviours 60 (20%), dissociation 55 (19%), mania 54 (18%), suicidal ideation 36 (12%), memory 33 (11%) and psychosis 23 (8%).
CONCLUSION : A high burden of mental health symptoms was identified. Community-oriented and person-centred health services with clear care-coordination pathways are required to understand and overcome the barriers street-homeless people face in accessing health and social services.
CONTRIBUTION : This study determined the prevalence of mental health symptoms within the street-based population in Tshwane, which has not previously been studied.
DATA AVAILABILITY : The data that support the findings of this study are available upon reasonable request from the corresponding author, M.J.v.R. The data are not publicly available due to restrictions (e.g. their containing information that could compromise the privacy of research participants).