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When giving doesn’t help

Stopping at a traffic light in South Africa’s metropolitan city centres is often typified by homeless or destitute people approaching your vehicle and asking for small change to cover their needs for the day. Quite often, South Africans sitting in their cars assuage their guilt by giving these people a few coins before moving on along the road to another intersection that is most likely also occupied by people suffering from homelessness.

And while it is only human nature to want to give something to someone who is clearly in need, the city of Cape Town has launched a new campaign designed to encourage South Africans not to give small change to those on the street, because it does little more than keep them there.       

The campaign features a vending machine that spews coins onto the street when pedestrians walk past it. And, as indicated by the fact that most passersby linger around the machine for extended periods, small change is capable of keeping anyone—regardless of background—on the street.

The initiative forms part of the city’s ‘Give Responsibly‘ campaign that aims to encourage the public to give to shelters rather than to people on the street.

South African not-for-profit organisations have over recently become quite creative in their approach to dealing with homelessness. Last year, Haven Night Shelter launched the Street Store, an ongoing campaign that gives the homeless an opportunity to select from items that have been donated by those who are more privileged. Initially launched in Cape Town, the campaign quickly gained online traction and has now spread to the extent that there are over 400 stores in progress across the world.        

     

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