Vexed street children

2014-01-03 00:00

GLENWOOD residents’ wish for the New Year is to have someone in authority remove the many young beggars from traffic lights in the area to rehabilitation centres and places of safety.

Heather Rorick, chairperson of the Bulwer Community Safety Forum (CSF) said the boys are addicted to glue and other drugs and pose a risk to motorists and residents.

“In the past two months, we have had massive complaints from residents and motorists about how these young boys have become a nuisance. We don’t know how to handle the situation,” said Rorick.

She said refusal to give money sometimes results in threats and sometimes cars are even scratched. “Some of these boys have managed to get car guard vests and collect money, presumably to feed their drug addiction.” The matter has been reported to the municipality and the community policing forum has been inundated with complaints from the residents, Rorick added.

Ben Madokwe, chair of the Umbilo/Glenmore community policing forum (CPF) said, “The community is fed-up. We as the CPF are fed-up. People report these incidents but no arrests have been made. Those kids must be removed. Unfortunately there are no places where they can be taken to. We, together with the police, sometimes chase them away but the next day they are back.”

Head of Safe Cities Martin Xaba said two NGOs, iCare and Agape Reception Centre, were contracted by the municipality to monitor the boys around the city. He said periodic monitoring is conducted to see if progress is made.

“We have a programme to remove street children on our streets, hence the sourcing of the NGOs’ services. We are busy with a social development master plan to tackle the problem. When addressing the issue, we must do so within the ambit of the law,” said Xaba.

Rorick retorted this municipal intervention was not enough. “The laws that are in place are not helping the situation. NGOs can only help those who want to be helped, if they refuse they can’t be forced. It is also common knowledge that proper rehabilitation centres are expensive and these NGOs can’t afford to run such facilities,” she said.

The organisation iCare, which is contracted for two years by eThekwini Municipality, has a R4 million annual budget to maintain its three foster homes where they re-activate family values, provide stationery and uniforms for the school-going boys and run rehabilitation programmes. iCare’s contract lapses in September 2014.

General manager Anne Slatter said they have about 200 street children in the Durban central and the Glenwood area. The children are between 14 and 17 years old.

Slatter said the municipality contributes 26% of the R4 million budget, with the rest coming from private donors.

“Due to our limited resources last year alone, we have taken in 50 boys for rehabilitation. At any given time we have a 72% success rate with those we take in. Some run back to the street to feed their addiction. But we track them down.

“As much as we are contracted by the municipality to help out, we don’t have the authority to force these children to come with us. What we do in our approach is to try and build relationships with them to gain their trust. We then track their families to get an explanation as to why a child is on the streets, if there’s an existing home,” said Slatter.

She said 95% to 98% percent of the children on the streets are addicted to glue, with whoonga being their main other drug challenge.

Meanwhile, Agape Centre manager Phamela Mqadi said they operate on a monthly R40 000 budget and their 18-month contract lapses in June this year.

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