Walking for homeless

2016-11-29 06:00
 Cape Town Free Walking Tours has raised funds for the homeless living on CBD streets.  PHOTO: Michael Le Grange

Cape Town Free Walking Tours has raised funds for the homeless living on CBD streets. PHOTO: Michael Le Grange

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An organisation offering walking tours around the CBD has donated money to Khulisa Social Solutions, an organisation that offers alternatives to sentencing for criminals found guilty of non-serious crimes.

Cape Town Free Walking Tours arranged the Charity Event “Walk for the Homeless”, which saw them collect donations gathered during three Cape Town Free Walking Tours throughout the day on Saturday 19 November.

The organisation offers three different walking tours – of the CBD, District Six and Bo-Kaap – for free to more than 50 000 visitors ever year. Around 10 local guides lead the tours, working for tips.

The company started in 2013 after Martin Bo Neilsen decided to bring the concept of free walking tours from his home country of Denmark.

“We take guests around town and the homeless people are right in front of us every single day,” Neilsen says.

Although guides often educate visitors on giving responsibly and discourage them from giving directly to street people, Neilsen and the team still feel deeply for those living on the street.

“We feel compassion for them and felt that an event like this every six months is a way of making a difference in a sustainable way,” he says.

Khulisa’s programme works on the principle that it is not just the person who committed the crime who needs help, but that the “system around that person is just as broken”, explains programme coordinator Jesse Laitinen.

Often systemic problems – such as unemployment, abuse or dysfunctional families – are behind crimes, Laitinen says. If these issues are not changed, the offender will continue to commit crimes.

“There are around 150 street people arrested each month at the community court in Cape Town, mostly for bylaw violations or petty crimes,” she says.

Many of these arrests are an attempt to discourage people from living on the street, Laitinen believes, but there is no alternative for the offenders.

This is where Khulisa steps in – by attempting to provide employment which gives offenders the option to improve their lives.

“Every time we raise R1000 for Khulisa, one homeless person can get meaningful work for a month. Last time we managed to do that 12 times and this time we are proud to say we raised R11 646 with 165 guests on tour,” Neilsen says. “It was a wonderful day where we brought some of the homeless guys on the tour and all loved it. Our guides put in a great effort and took out a Saturday to make a difference.”

All the proceeds are used to pay stipends for the participants starting up in the program, Laitinen says.

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