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The Durban University of Technology’s Prof Monique Marks, who currently heads up the Urban Futures Centre (UFC), and her women-led team are no strangers to receiving accolades and awards for their projects. The Urban Futures Centre at DUT (UFC@DUT) is based in the Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment. It serves as the central node for a network of projects, institutions, practitioners and academics involved in the future of cities locally and internationally. Their work focuses on improving the quality of life of the most marginal in our society through engaged research.

The UFC’s work, under the helm of Prof Marks, is recognised nationally and globally. At present their flagship projects are a zero waste programme in Warwick Triangle under the leadership of Dr Kira Erwin and the Bellhaven Harm Reduction Centre (BHRC). The BHRC has its roots in COVID-19 lockdown and now runs seven days a week providing services to roughly 200 homeless people with an opioid use disorder. At the start of lockdown level 5, the UFC together with partner organisations including the eThekwini Municipality, Advance Access and Delivery, TB HIV Care, and the South African Network of People Who Use Drugs, organised a withdrawal management programme in two of the lockdown safe spaces for homeless people.

“This initiative was so successful that the eThekwini Municipality has awarded one of its buildings, Bellhaven Memorial in Greyville, for the purposes of running a full-time harm reduction centre. This Centre is the first of its kind in Durban, South Africa and the continent, and has received huge public and media attention for its impact both nationally and internationally,” says Prof Marks. She further added that the Bellhaven Harm Reduction Centre is now expanding in terms of what it’s going to be offering. A second stream of clients will soon be welcomed to the BHRC. These are clients who can afford to pay for the services at the BHRC, at a nominal rate. The goal is to get Bellhaven Private Care up and running by the end of March 2022, hopefully by the end of February 2022, is to develop a second stream of clients for the Bellhaven Harm Reduction Centre.

“These will be clients who are able to pay for services, we are hoping to get clients from psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers to GP’s to refer to the Bellhaven Harm Reduction Centre. They (clients) will pay a fixed amount, estimated to be R5000 a month. That will include psycho-social and medical care as well as the medication. The medication is an opioid substitute, Methadone, used according to WHO guidelines. Clients will also be able to access groups and there is a possibility of home based care when a vehicle is available for use by the nurses who work at Bellhaven,” says Prof Marks.

She indicated that the goal is to get around 40 private clients and this will come about through word of mouth, and referrals from medical professionals. She commented that DUT can assist by getting the building that they operate out of in better shape, and by spreading the word of the private care stream.

“There is a high demand for harm reduction services which are not on offer anywhere else in the province other than through the Bellhaven Harm Reduction Centre and their sister organisation TB HIV Care. But there is also a demand for an outpatient facility. Most ‘rehab’ centres in KZN are residential, disrupting daily life and often with very poor outcomes in regard to resolving drug use disorders,” she stressed.

As Prof Marks put it, “Bellhaven is for people who recognise that they have a drug use disorder and who do not want to go into an inpatient facility. We offer outpatient services from a very skilled team of people who have been doing this for a very long time at very affordable costs.”

Prof Marks is aware that there are many families at DUT who are struggling with a family member who has a drug use disorder as she gets phone calls on an almost a daily basis to assist with this. She relayed that now Bellhaven Private Care will offer a solution that is evidence-based, accessible, and affordable.

She further added that because the university is a one of the partners that run the Centre people will know that it is not fly-by-night as many other so-called rehabs are.  She indicated that being university-led also means that it is a location of ongoing research, knowledge generation, and engagement. She says that the Bellhaven Harm Reduction Centre is also an ideal institutional arrangement for in-service teaching, student placements, volunteerism, professional development, and community engagement. She would like to see a range of DUT people involved in the Bellhaven Harm Reduction Centre which has already begun to happen.

“We have the homeopaths with us, offering services two days a week at the Bellhaven Harm Reduction Centre. I am looking at DUT which will be the Horticulture department to assist with the garden, Interior Design Department to give a ‘facelift’ to the Centre particularly as they begin to offer services to fee paying clients. We could easily supervise nurses, social workers and paramedics at the Bellhaven Harm Reduction Centre. We would also love to have Management Sciences develop a business plan for the paying clients, or assisting our homeless client with budgeting. The IT department could do basic skills training at the Bellhaven Harm Reduction Centre. Town and Regional Planning has expressed interest in making Bellhaven Harm Reduction Centre a placemaker in the City of Durban,” added Prof Marks.

Prof Marks and her team are also appealing to the national and international donor community for funding for this particular service. She is also advocating for financial and in-kind support from government at both local and national levels.

To get involved in the project and for more information on services offered, contact Prof Marks on email:

Pictured: Prof Monique Marks

Waheeda Peters


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