A recent study conducted by Solidarity’s welfare organisation, Helping Hand, surveyed beggars in and around Centurion and Pretoria, assessing the hazards and realities they face on the streets.
The study’s main aim was to analyse the implications of drug addiction among the country’s destitute, having in the past found that between 80% and 90% of those living on the streets were drug addicts.
It aimed for qualitative research rather than quantitative research, focusing on male drug addicts between the ages of 18 and 48, it said. The report questioned 50 addicts in November 2017 – of which, 17 said they were beggars.
According to the data, begging was the prime source of income for feeding their drug addiction, where some respondents indicated getting as much as R3,000 a day in some cases.
However, this was an outlier, Helping Hand said, with as little as R150 a day also being reported. On average, the beggars reported receiving R1,263 a day.
Previous data from the group, questioning a different group of beggars, found an average much lower at between R300 and R500 a day, with the maximum going as high as R2,000 a day.
Put into context of the report, the addicts questioned reported spending on average R500 to R1,000 on drugs – reaching as much as R5,000 (versus a minimum of R90).
The dangers of giving to beggars:
According to Helping Hand and associated welfare groups, beggars in the Pretoria and Centurion region are handed as much as R4 million a day by motorists and other passers-by.
The group has warned in the past – and in its most recent studies – that giving money to beggars feeds the problem, and leads to many other associated ills, such as a rise in crime.
The study found that the majority of addicts and beggars did not have a regular income, with almost half turning to theft and fraud to get money.
Begging, which accounted for 25% of income used to fund their addictions, was so lucrative that it could sustain their addictions and kept them on the streets.
Other sources of income were to sell drugs themselves, or getting funds from enabling family members.
The SAPS has also warned against giving money to beggars, saying that the gesture encourages them to keep on begging as it creates a market for them in any given area.
Helping Hand said that instead of giving money to beggars, concerned citizens should rather opt for donating money to organisations that look after the homeless and take in drug addicts, or to buy food coupons, which can only be traded for a plate of food.