Much confusion surrounds the question of whether or not to give money to children begging on our streets. There are two options; giving and not giving. Giving means that most children living on the streets use the money they receive to buy thinners, glue or a video game. In the long-term giving money is a death sentence whereby children learn to be street children and leave their families without the income they expect their children to bring home. Not giving also means that many families will lose their only income as most of the children on the streets are sent by their families to earn money.
Thankfully, there are other options available to help street children that will result in a positive change. One way of making a difference is simply talking to the child asking for money to find out why he/she is on the street. They will move on if they do not want to chat but genuine concern is something money cannot communicate. One could engage the child about the long term benefits of a shelter and highlight the risks a street child faces such as motorists, trafficking and child labour.
If one does wish to give them something, give them food instead or give the money you would give on the streets to the programmes and initiatives that are helping address the problem of children on the streets. Soup kitchens, day programmes, shelters and education training opportunities require a great deal of money to operate. The public can make a real difference to street children by rather donating the money they would give to the child directly to the shelter so that funds translate into proper service and not into maintaining a child on the streets in harm’s way.
The public can also support the initiatives and efforts of people on the streets. Many people on the streets make a living by selling things, washing cars or gathering paper for recycling. Encourage this and put the money you might give to a street child into a service or product offered by the community, especially where the provider is a youth over the age of 18.
The public must remember that street children are mostly not on the streets out of choice but rather as a result of hardships they have had to endure at their age. It is important to remember that these children have the potential to make it in life much like any other child.
The removal of children from the streets does not occur overnight but is a lengthy process. It is important to note that some children agree to be taken to a shelter during the first initial contact, whereas others require several engagements before committing to a shelter. One can ask the SAPS to take a child to a place of safety as they have a mandate or an obligation to make sure that they are protected.
The harsh reality of giving money to begging children is that it increases the rate of crime, increase the number of drug users, it exposes children’s vulnerability to sex exploitation and children labour, and they miss the opportunity to be rehabilitated. It is patience, hope, and a particular level commitment by community members that can bring about a positive change to the lives of street children
Shelters and places of safety:
Kids Haven 011 421 4222
Kempton Park All Stars 011 975 6899
B.J Voster 011 907 3004/5
Norman house 011 453 0884/7803/4/5
Mary Moodley Place of Safety 011 421 5675
Jubelium 011 917 9574
Department of Social Development 011 820 0447
ALEX DSD 011 719 4907 / 12
JHB DSD 011 374 1600
Twilight Shelter (Hillbrow) 011 484 1912
Jabulani Khakibos (Berea) 083 703 6211
Any SAPS or any METRO police station