Cape Town officials warn residents: 'Don't give money to the homeless'

Cape Town officials warn residents: ‘Don’t give money to the homeless’

Government officials say handing money over on the street does more harm than good.

Cape Town officials warn residents: 'Don't give money to the homeless'

Cape Town officials have instructed tourists and residents to avoid giving money to the homeless, claiming that it deters them from accepting the help of social programmes.

JP Smith is the mayoral committee member for safety, security and social services. In a statement released this week, he made it clear that direct cash handouts do nothing to help those on the streets, and only exacerbate the problem.

Smith maintained that there are plenty of options for the homeless. However, many aren’t using the support networks available because they are happier to take short-term solutions in the form of ‘spare change’:

“We are constantly reminding residents about the harm in giving money directly to street people. They may think they’re doing a good deed. However, it only discourages street people from accepting social services.”

“Members of the public will complain about the structures erected and activities undertaken by street people. They will often also continue to incentivise such behaviour through donations directly to the street person.”

To give or not to give?

As reported in The Huffington Post, some 15,000 complaints about the homeless were raised over the financial year of 2016/17. The City’s Street People Unit was able to help 2,600 of those people. Therein lies the problem.

Those on the streets can often harass passers-by and force them into donations, as they feel awkward and vulnerable. Though homeless people are in desperate need of more long-term help, many find it difficult to leave the situation without making a token donation.

What is there to help the homeless?

JP Smith is keen for homeless people to use structures like Straatwerk and Haven Night Shelter, which provide free food and accomodation for street people.

The Haven Night CEO, Hassan Khan, doesn’t believe that Smith’s ‘zero-tolerance’ approach is the best fit. He believes that each homeless person’s situation is unique, and giving money isn’t always ‘irresponsible’. Khan implored those without a home to come and give Haven Night a go:

“Come shower here at our shelters, come swap clothes, come and have lunch and supper with us. But the one thing we won’t do is give you a takeaway. You are our brother and we want you to feel like family.”

What’s your opinion on this one? Is a complete shut-down of giving to the homeless a necessary act, or is this a step too far from the Cape Town Council? Get to our Facebook comments section and share your opinions with us.