Last year was especially hard for those who found themselves homeless in Cape Town. In this context, here are some ways one can make a difference in 2022:
The growing gift box:
The concept is to fill a box with food items, clothing, toiletries and more, then donate it to a group of homeless people in your neighbourhood.
There are two schools of thought on this subject. Some believe that gifting money directly to a homeless person is the best course of action while others believe that it can perpetuate destructive cycles. You are taking a chance either way. Direct giving has direct impact, and yes, some of it might land up at a bottle store or with a dealer.
But consider that once you have parted with the money, with good intent and an open heart, the responsibility for you has ended.
Secondly, if the person is a heavy drug user, battling withdrawal symptoms and did not receive any money, a criminal act such as a robbery could follow.
I have never met a homeless person, even on drugs, who receives R100 and spends all of it on illegal substances.
Thirdly, the City’s “Give Dignity” initiative raises awareness around the plight of people living on the street. The initiative emphasises the importance of giving those in need a hand up rather than a handout.
Instead of a cash handout, which often increases the risk of prolonged homelessness, people are encouraged to make a donation. It is a choice.
There are many charities doing great work in helping homeless people to rebuild their lives.
My personal favourites are:
- U-turn - https://www.facebook.com/Uturncharityshops
- New Hope SA - https://www.facebook.com/streetandshelter
- the Service Dining Room - https://www.facebook.com/pages/The%20Service%20Dining%20Rooms/1624336181218850/
- M.E.S - https://www.facebook.com/mouldempowerserve
- Women of Hope - https://www.facebook.com/RestorationHouseHopefield
- Play Sport 4 Life - https://www.facebook.com/playsport4life
- Streetscapes - https://www.facebook.com/streetscapescp
- Oasis - https://www.facebook.com/OasisPlaceCapeTown/
- Souper Troopers - https://www.facebook.com/soupertroopers/
- Pamela Tosh
- The Rehoming Collective: which includes Our HOUSE and Rainbow House - https://www.facebook.com/Rehomingthehomeless
Also a special mention to someone often forgotten when it comes to helping the homeless in corporate terms, that is Venetia Orgill’s feeding scheme.
Be socially kind:
Acknowledge people living on the streets by saying hello, asking them how they are, and stopping for a chat. It makes the world of difference to them. Conversations helps to combat loneliness. Try not to just ignore people on the street.
During the colder months, supplies can become a matter of life and death. Jerseys, gloves, beanies, baby wipes, sanitiser, tampons, masks, bin bags, water bottles, socks and toiletries are always useful, as are larger items such as a tent or sleeping bag.
Ask what is need and drop it off later depending on what you can offer within your own personal circumstances.
Organisations like The Rehoming Collective desperately need volunteers.
They do not receive official funds, making it difficult to budget and hire staff. A venture like the Homeless Hub, which we will launch later this month, requires volunteers to help with everything from serving food to legal assistance and skills training.
The list is endless.
Feed a homeless person’s pet:
Studies have shown that pets can help with mental health issues, reduce stress, anxiety, and depression.
For some people on the street, a pet provides purpose, companionship, warmth and protection. A pet’s survival can in turn aid a person’s survival, but it’s also an extra cost.
It is a documented fact that one of the top three reasons people living on the street refuse offers of help into shelters, even during a severe storm, is that their pet will not be allowed.
Offer a homeless person a tin of pet food or a snack for their pet and experience real gratitude.
When someone asks you what you would like for your birthday, Valentine’s Day, or an anniversary, suggest a donation of a gift to a homeless person.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who continue to support the homeless.
* Carlos Mesquita and a handful of others formed HAC (the Homeless Action Committee) that lobbies for the rights of the homeless. He also manages Our House in Oranjezicht, which is powered by the Community Chest. He can be reached at [email protected]
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.