Seeing the beggar picture: snappy scheme helps the homeless
Instead of hitting the street with cap in hand, these Durban beggars are being snapped in a novel outreach campaign
Life has been hard for Philani Khumalo, 37, an unemployed father of three, since he had to leave work because it affected his health.
The KwaMashu man, who didn’t complete matric, eventually turned to the streets, and resorted to begging at traffic lights when he was unable to find a job. It wasn’t ideal because income was not consistent and many people either ignored him or closed their window as he held out his hand.
The conditions were also less than ideal.
“Life is really hard (on the streets); when it is raining it is even worse, and there are no blankets. Sometimes we (people living on the streets) are using cardboard or even bin bags to keep warm,” Khumalo told Times Select.
But now, thanks to a novel social responsibility campaign, Khumalo is being paid to stand on street corners and pose for pictures.
The #Samuels campaign initiated by automotive workshop Samuels Service Centre in Durban last week, has brought hope to Khumalo and about 40 homeless men and women. They have given bright red T-shirts, that encourage the public to take photos of them and post them on social media with the hashtag samuels.
Khumalo is now getting his picture taken about 10 times a day, at his spot on the corner of Innes and Lilian Ngoyi roads in Durban.
The company’s chief executive Darin Samuels decided to spend the money that is usually allocated to its advertising to a “give-back” programme to clean up the streets.
His vision was to empower people who were begging so they do not need to beg.
The company’s public relations manager, Charmaine Kritizinger, said phase one of the campaign is to pay them R100 per day to wear the T-shirt and not to beg.
Phase two entails teaching those on board new skills, such as bricklaying, so that they are employable.
Samuels pays each individual who is on their registry R100 per day and provides them with a lunch pack of four slices of bread and a beverage daily for six days a week.
They have 40 people on board so far and are aiming for 80. The areas include intersections in Durban from Umgeni, Argyle through to central Durban, Malvern, Higginson Highway in Chatsworth, Amanzimtoti on the south coast, Phoenix, Verulam, Pinetown and Westville.
There are several mobile teams who go out to the areas to provide them with food.
Khumalo was thrilled when he received his first payment.
“It is so good to have a guaranteed amount each day so that I know I can pay the R30 shelter fee and don’t have to sleep on the street.”
He usually earns between R80 and R120 through begging, but this is not always guaranteed and some days he doesn’t have enough to pay for food and shelter, let alone send home to his children’s mother.
However, the campaign has received its fair share of criticism on social media, with some claiming that using beggars for advertising is tantamount to exploitation.
Kritzinger said: “We do understand that people will say it is a marketing campaign. We knew that would be the case going into this. But once people understand the concept and when we move into phase two, which is to empower the people, we hope people will see that it is not a gimmick.
“So you will always get the odd sceptic, but as a whole people are receiving it really well. This a real sustainable initiative that will be ongoing. This is only phase one to gain their trust and then we will implement phase two.
“If people actually saw that lives are changing – our team is saying to the beggars there is a much better way of life. We have 90% of their support but there are still those who would rather beg and don’t want to be in the programme . "