A man sitting on the side of a busy road begging

Joseph Lulu (38) was left with one leg after a car accident 13 years ago. The ex- factory worker said that the loss of his leg prevented him from doing his job.

“Things never went back to the way they were before, the work I was doing was work that I needed my hands and my legs to do,” said Lulu. Now begging at a robot on a busy Durban road, Lulu said that he would take any job to get off the street.

The breadwinner takes care of his two young sisters and his mother who he lives with in a township outside of the city. Lulu said that on an average day he makes about R70 begging at the robot, although he has made up to R120 in a day before. “Sometimes it’s better, but I can not say it’s good money,” said Lulu.

Using crutches, he catches a taxi into town each day, saying that he prefers to beg in an area where people know him. Sometimes Lulu stays at his post late and sleeps at a local shelter although, most days, he goes home at 6:30pm. “Some people just want to beg, this gives us a bad name because other people don’t see the difference between us and them,” said Lulu.

For the Director of the Dennis Hurley Centre, Raymond Perrier giving money to beggars is part of a grey area with reasons to support and reasons to hold back. Perrier said that there are good reason to give to someone such as sympathy (not pity), knowing that a small amount can make a big difference and the fact that the person may well use the money for food and shelter while reasons not to give include fear that the person will use the money for drugs or alcohol, not wanting to reward begging and not wanting to encourage disabled people or people with children to put themselves at risk by standing in the traffic. “Whether you give or not, I encourage you to wind down your window and give the person a smile, because that costs nothing,” said Perrier. Those wishing to help, but wary of giving money to beggars can opt to assist an organisation such as the Dennis Hurley Centre or ICARE who will use money to help the homeless in a structured way.
Spokesperson for the Durban Central SAPS, Captain Kepho Ndlovu said that giving money can lead to criminal activities. “We rather prefer that people assist with food or jobs because money donations can lead to criminal activities such as drug use,” said Ndlovu. Lulu said that food donations are appreciated but uncooked food is preferable because this can be taken home and will not go off. Tinned foods and uncooked pastas are idea for those wishing to help beggars with food donations.

Current initiatives at the Dennis Hurley Centre that assist the homeless include:
The Social Meal Project whereby diners can add R15 via Zapper to their bill at selected restaurants.
The Dennis Hurley Centre kitchen which serves meals on Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday each week.
Paper Money project which allows people to sell newspapers on the street and keep half of the proceeds.

What are your thoughts on supporting beggers? Share your views with us – email gazette@tabloidmedia.co.za