D4J starts voucher system for homeless

Eugene Andrews belongings.

A Durbanville church organisation is using a meal-voucher system to encourage the homeless to get off the streets.

Over the years, several churches working under the Durbanville 4 Jesus (D4J) banner have helped the homeless through the Durbanville Soup Kitchen, but now the group is using the vouchers after deciding to work with Mould Empower Serve (MES). One meal voucher costs R5.

Durbanville Dutch Reformed Church pastor André van Wyk said they wanted to help the homeless in a more holistic way and not just give them a free meal.

“As long as residents keep on giving homeless people money, this enables and keeps them on the streets. A lot of homeless people are on the streets as they are being fed and maintained,” he said.

The voucher system is in line with the City’s Give Responsibly campaign and can be used at any of the three available kitchens – Durbanville, Bellville and Brackenfell.

It’s hoped that by using the vouchers, the homeless will learn more about the MES support programmes that can help them and get them in contact with a social worker who is available three days a week in Durbanville.

MES branch manager Lilly Franks said feeding projects helped them to put the homeless in touch with a job rehabilitation programme which “reduces aggressive begging by offering an honest day’s work”.

The public can buy vouchers to give to the homeless. The homeless can also buy the vouchers themselves or sit in on a session with the social worker to earn one.

However, the voucher system has seen a dramatic drop in the number of homeless people using the soup kitchen – from about 100 a day to between 30 and 50 day, according to Pastor Van Wyk.

Eugene Andrews, who has been living on the streets for five years, is among those who have stayed away. He said he no longer used the soup kitchen because he didn’t always have money to pay for a meal voucher.

Asked if he knew he could still get a meal simply by sitting in on session with a social worker, the only answer he gave was a blank expression.

Mr Andrews said he often got food from passing motorists and from residents who left food on their bins.

Jason Claasen, 24, has been on the streets for 10 years. He said Durbanville residents threw away a lot of things that still had value. He rummages through their bins to find things to sell.

Pastor Van Wyk said they had anticipated a drop in numbers at the soup kitchen after bringing in the meal vouchers.

It suggested the homeless were getting free meals elsewhere and had no reason to get involved in assistance programmes.

“Another reason for this is that the Durbanville community still gives a lot of cash and other hand-outs to the street people,” he said.

Suzette Little, mayoral committee member for area north, said the City was doing surveys to determine the number of homeless people in the area.

Ms Little said law enforcement had received 173 complaints relating to homeless people from Durbanville and Brackenfell for March and April.

“Vagrancy is a complex social issue, and it is not a crime to be homeless… While there are numerous options available for assistance, these are voluntary,” she said.

Ms Little previously told Northern News that problem areas included Durbanville CBD, Durbanville cemeteries, Durban Road, and Old Oak Road.

The vouchers will be available at the MES offices at 3 Davies Street, Bellville, as well as Aurora Superspar and The Green Grocer in Durbanville, and also at various Durbanville churches.

Contact MES at 021 949 8736
or Pastor Van Wyk at 021 975 6370 for more information. Complaints can be lodged through the
City’s Public Emergency Communications Centre at 021 480 7700 from a cellphone or 107 from a landline.