PMB way ahead on street children

2014-08-13 00:00

PIETERMARITZBURG is way ahead of other cities in dealing with children living on the streets, thanks to Youth For Christ (YFC).

Tom Hewitt, director of Surfers Not Street Children, told a gathering at the city hall yesterday, that as a result, Msunduzi was already past the starting block.

The initiative to get a city-wide strategy for children living on the streets was spearheaded by Business Fighting Crime. The gathering attracted a broad spectrum of city organisations, churches, the South African Police Service, representatives from various government departments and the municipality.

Business and school pupils said they were having a difficult time with the children. Pupils from city centre schools said they were being mugged.

A KFC outlet in the CBD, whose customers are being harassed by the children and whose facilities were being vandalised, faces possible closure.

Sally Mann, regional director of YFC, spoke about the organisation’s Kayalethu (“Our Home”) Project. She said outreach workers go out onto the streets to get to know the children and work with them to help get them back into family life. Children living on the streets who were at the meeting said their homelessness was not by choice.

According to Mann, in 2013 they found 189 children living on the city streets and 88 were re-united with their families. She said 426 children used their drop-in centres, with 75% of the resources for their work coming from outside South Africa.

Among their local benefactors, she thanked the women who dropped off sandwiches at the shelter in the morning, volunteers who helped the children with homework, teachers who give extra lessons, volunteer drivers and those who bake birthday cakes.

Hewitt said South Africa had some of the best policies for child and youth care centres and drop-in centres, but these were not being widely implemented. He said YFC was using this blueprint, hence its success.

Hewitt warned that no project would succeed if the intervention did not include both the psychological and social care of the children.

He urged the city to see its strategy as one of “propelling the child on a journey of healing”.

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