Most motorists cannot turn a blind eye when it comes to ‘hungry’ beggars. Although there are indeed hungry people begging for food, Hartbeespoort has recently seen an influx of beggars at intersections in the Melodie and Ifafi area, and it has raised concerns about increased drug trafficking and drug use in these areas.
The R511/Beethoven intersection has become a popular begging spot, with many loitering in the nearby shopping centres.
“The good-hearted Hartbeespoort community members do not realise they may be feeding a drug addiction. Motorists hands over money, in many cases enabling them to buy their next ‘fix’,” says Janet Papenfus from Solidarity Helping Hand who has been working with beggars in the area. “Most of them are from other areas and unfortunately addicted to drugs. When asked why they came to Hartbeespoort, they told us the Hartbeespoort community gives easily and drugs are cheap and easy to come by. We have tried to assist some of them, even facilitating rehabilitation at rehabilitation centres but unfortunately, none have been successful.”
For instance, Jack* was at a rehabilitation centre for seven weeks and then he ran away and returned to the street corner. Mary* was given a room in a safe house and then also sent to a rehabilitation centre where she kept up her drug use and upon her return, she brought one of the other girls in the safe house drugs as a present. They are both still in the area,” Janet says.
“We have watched motorists giving them money and then they are later spotted buying drugs. Yes, drugs are sold right here on the street. We have even seen some of them injecting smaller siblings. We have been told a heroin fix cost R27.”
Janet says many motorists hand over non-perishable food. “We watch them walk over to the taxi rank and sell it. We have offered one woman a job but she told us she makes more begging! Another young man asked us for clothes. We told him while we select two outfits for him, he can sweep the small porch in front of the shop. I was told he won’t waste his time sweeping for two pairs of jeans. This is the sad reality.”
During a recent police operation, police clamped down these homeless beggars sleeping in front of businesses and in bushes around the areas. At the time, Hartbeespoort community policing forum chairman, Romano van der Spuy said most of the people were young, from other areas, and in almost all cases drugs were found in their possession.
“We all want to help, but the question we must ask ourselves is are we helping? We would like to request the community and motorists not to give money and non-perishable food, but rather fresh food. If you want to give, give right, or we will attract more beggars to the area. People can rather help these people by working with local charity organisations or churches or give donations to Meals on Wheels for a meal for these people. It has become a big problem and is going to get much worse if the community does not realise what is happening.” Hartbeespoort Community Policing Forum chairman, Romano van der Spuy, said this week the police and security structures are aware of the issue and that action is taken to address it. Contact Solidarity Helping hand on 061 945 1917.