At home on the streets

2015-06-29 11:02
A street child in Raisethorpe shows some of the money he made during the day while begging.

A street child in Raisethorpe shows some of the money he made during the day while begging. (Kailene Pillay)

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SLEEPING on old, soiled mattresses behind the Raisethorpe BP garage, almost 20 street children huddled together to fight off the winter’s cold.

The Witness visited the street children at night with mission and development agency Youth for Christ (YFC) which has adopted “hotspots” in Pietermaritzburg where social workers regularly visit and counsel street children.

YFC social worker Nonkanyiso Mlaba said Raisethorpe, Khan Road, the Upper Crust Bakery area and Chota Motala flyover are the “key areas” where the street children sleep.

“We go out and document the number of street children in Pietermaritzburg. We speak to them and become their friends and find out why they are on the street,” said Mlaba.

YFC offers bathing facilities, rehabilitation and development programmes to the street children.

Speaking to The Witness, some of the children living on the street in Raisethorpe said they “hate” living on the street but were forced out of their homes with nowhere to go.

“Everyone is welcome on the streets and when I was kicked out of my house, I was welcomed here. Now this is my home,” said one of the children, who cannot be named.

The 17-year-old boy said he has been living on the streets for several years and “sometimes” wishes he could go back home and return to school.

“My mother told me to leave the house because I stole money from her. I’m scared to go home now but I wish I could,” said the boy.

He described his days on the streets as “sometimes good and sometimes bad”.

“I beg to get money from people who are on their way to the shops. Some people give us food and blankets so it’s okay. Sometimes we fight here; then it’s bad,” he said.

The teen said he buys glue at R10 a bottle and started sniffing glue because it helps him “forget”.

“I like glue because it makes me happy. I don’t have to care about the next day and worry about things,” he said.

YFC’s Mlaba said people who want to help street children should only offer them food.

“Clothing and money is a big no, no. People have good intentions but by giving them money and clothes, we make the streets comfortable for them. That should not be the case and that makes our jobs very difficult,” said Mlaba

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  homeless

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