Feed the cause, not the beggars

2015-09-22 06:00
Councillors Phindile Maxiti (background), chairperson of the City’s homeless agency committee, and Philisa Marman participated in a Give Responsibly awareness drive in Cape Town last Friday.

Councillors Phindile Maxiti (background), chairperson of the City’s homeless agency committee, and Philisa Marman participated in a Give Responsibly awareness drive in Cape Town last Friday.

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The City of Cape Town’s social development and early childhood development directorate took its Give Responsibly campaign to the streets last Friday.

Councillors and officials from the directorate were stationed at 17 intersections in Durbanville, Bellville, Goodwood, Kuils River, Parow, Athlone, Mitchell’s Plain, Ottery, Diep River, Grassy Park, Somerset West, Strand, Gordon’s Bay, Wynberg, Lansdowne, Table View and the Cape Town CBD, armed with posters highlighting the importance of not giving hand-outs to street people.

Some of the slogans used to drive the message home included: “Hand-outs are not generous, they are harmful”; “By giving hand-outs, you are perpetuating a cycle of poverty”; “Your money is supporting a drug dealer”; “Change is about more than a few coins”; and “Begging handicaps my future”.

“We opted for this activation to create awareness about the fact that street corner hand-outs are doing little else other than perpetuating the cycle of dependence and keeping people on the streets,” said Suzette Little, the City’s mayco member for social development and early childhood development.

“The public has a shared responsibility for the well-being of street people. We must understand that there is a very good chance that the R2 or R5 handed over at the intersection is feeding a habit instead of the individual.

“So let’s change tack and move away from the instant gratification that a monetary donation provides. My appeal to the public is to find out where their nearest shelter or organisation working with street people is, and liaise with them about how to make a real difference, whether it be donating clothes or other goods, or even volunteering,” Little said.

The City introduced its Give Responsibly campaign in 2010, aimed at encouraging the public to support the homeless by making donations to registered organisations instead of individuals, thus breaking the cycle of dependence that keeps them on the street.

In addition, the City has formulated a street people policy and implemented a number of interventions as part of its street people programme. The budget for this programme has grown from R4,5 million in 2013/14, to R7,8 million in 2014/15, to R9,7 million in 2015/16 – an increase of more than 100%.

“The City has made great strides in its efforts to tackle homelessness. Our field workers engage with street people on a daily basis, offering them access to a range of services including returning home if possible.

“On the other hand, we have structures set up within communities to prevent others from migrating to the streets. However, we’ve seen that many street people refuse our offers of assistance and I’m not surprised.

“Why leave the streets when do-gooders dish out donations for very little in return? If we are ever going to make a real dent in reducing the number of people living on our streets and offer them a better life, we need to move away from the culture of indiscriminate giving. Give a hand up rather than a hand-out,” Little said.

The City encourages members of the public to contact its toll-free number on 0800 872 201 for more information on how they can give responsibly.

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