Are we really helping the homeless by giving them money?
You’re taking a leisurely stroll along Long Street, looking for a cute shirt to buy when suddenly a man in shabby, torn clothes stands in front of you and asks if you have some change.
Now what? Do you ignore him and walk away? Somehow, you feel bad and a bit guilty because you are out shopping for clothing, and he doesn’t even have anything to eat. So you dig out some coins and give them to him. But not long after that, the next person pops up and begs you for some Rands. Soon you have doled out more money to beggars in the streets and at the traffic lights than you can actually afford to. And at some point, you start to feel quite irritated at being accosted every few metres.
No matter where you go in South Africa, indigent people on the streets – men, women and children – are an inherent part of the cityscape. Adults who migrated from the rural areas to the big city, in the hopes of finding better-paid work, soon realise that the cities are overflowing with unskilled workers, and end up begging in the streets to survive. Children run away from home to escape abuse or because there simply isn’t enough money to feed everyone. The reasons that lead people to fending for themselves on the street are as versatile as the people themselves. As privileged visitors or locals, it is only natural to feel guilty or to feel the urge to help those less fortunate than ourselves. But is giving them money really the best or only way to help?
The answer is clearly NO! And here is why: usually, homeless people make enough money begging to avoid starvation, but not enough to change their situation. Often, alcohol and drugs also play a part in their drama, as people try to escape the pain of their reality. Giving beggars money adds fuel to the fire, and keeps them on the street. However, turning a blind eye and doing nothing is no solution either! That’s why CapeTownMagazine.com investigated all the options available, to really help people in need and offer them a better chance.
Often homeless people don’t ask for money directly, but rather for food. If you have time to spare and there is a supermarket nearby, ask what they want – normally bread and milk – and buy it for them. Alternatively, you can buy food vouchers from the Broccoli Project at some Pick’n’Pay stores. They cost R50 and include five vouchers at R10 each. The best part is that one can only buy food with them, no alcohol or cigarettes. Participating Pick’n’Pay supermarkets can be found in Gardens, Constantia, Claremont and at the Waterfront. Other supermarkets offer gift vouchers too, but those allow one to buy anything the shop sells.
Broccoli Project | www.broccoliproject.org
Buy the Big Issue magazine
The Big Issue South Africa is a non-profit organisation (NGO) that creates jobs for underprivileged people and provides training programmes. The organisation publishes the informative lifestyle magazine The Big Issue; people in their programme can buy them for R9 and sell them on the streets of Cape Town for R20. That way, they acquire valuable entrepreneurial skills, while earning a very modest living for themselves and their families.
The Big Issue South Africa | www.bigissue.org.za
Buy entry passes for homeless shelters
The Haven Night Shelter has 14 different shelters in the Western Cape, 10 of which are located in Greater Cape Town. To stay there for one night, you need to pay a pass for R10. Instead of handing out money, you can give beggars such a pass. They are available in booklets of five vouchers, either online or directly at one of the shelters. The organisation not only offers homeless people a bed for the night, a shower and a warm meal, but they also get registered in the shelter’s social programme. Its purpose it to reconnect these people with their families and thus help them find a way off the street.
The Haven Night Shelter | www.haven.org.za
Pay R5 extra in restaurants
StreetSmart South Africa is a NGO that works with street kids and vulnerable kids in danger of becoming homeless. The NGO aims to give them a more positive outlook on life. Selected restaurants in Cape Town, the Cape Winelands and other cities in South Africa have partnered with this organisation. When you get your restaurant bill, you can opt to pay an extra R5, to be donated to selected local welfare organisations. On their website, you can find a list of all participating restaurants, as well as all the projects that StreetSmart supports.
StreetSmart South Africa | www.streetsmartsa.org.za
Give responsibly is a campaign run by the Cape Town Central City Improvement District, an organisation that provides education about homelessness and supports the work of social workers. With just one SMS sent to 38088 you can donate R10 (this will be deducted from your airtime). Approximately R8 of your donation goes to various charities in town. Visit their website to find a list of all the charities. they support
Give responsibly | www.giveresponsibly.co.za
Support charity organisations with your donations
There are numerous shelters and temporary homes in Cape Town for adults and children, as well as welfare organisations that attempt to give homeless people a way back into a safer and better life. Many of these organisations have programmes that meet the specific needs of beggars and homeless people. However, almost all organisations rely heavily on donations and volunteers to do this work. On the websites of the shelters and organisations listed below, you will find the banking details necessary for financial donations, as well as wish lists of desperately needed items and services. You have the option of either donating to an organisation or choosing to sponsor a specific person to get back on his/her feet. Volunteers are always very welcome!
Here is a list of the most important shelters and organisations that you can support with your donations or time.
Homeless shelters for adults:
The Haven Night Shelter | www.haven.org.za
The Pride Shelter (for homo-, bi- und transsexual) | www.pridesheltertrust.co.za
Homes for children:
Girls: Ons Plek | www.onsplek.org.za
Boys: Beth Uriel | www.bethuriel.co.za
The Homestead | www.homestead.org.za
Beautiful Gate | www.beautifulgate-rsa.org
City Mission | www.citymission.org.za
Straatwerk | www.straatwerk.org.za
Salesian Institute Youth Projects | www.salesians.org.za
We hope to have shown you that there are plenty of ways to help less fortunate people in South Africa without giving money to beggars on the street. Handing out money indiscriminately continues the vicious cycle of poverty and dependance. Through a donation to a charity organisation, you know that your money will actually make a difference in someone’s life.
By Alexandra Seiler