Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Moving the discussion along - Hardened Street Children

Instead of following on with Ryans blog, I thought to carry the conversation along a little in a freash post. Just finished another meeting in my discussions of what to do with the drug addicted street kids and some ideas flowed, so I have some ideas and questions to run past you guys. So here we go, the question is what if we get creative and out of our comfort zone?

First some points to understand:
1. These kids are addicted to drugs, their mission is to get drugs, nothing else.
2. They make a lot of money from begging, working in the taxis, working for the restaurants, asking for shoes/cornflakes which they then sell and so on.
3. I cannot find an appropriate service for them, ie no detention drug rehab for children (if any of you do know of one please let me know).
4. We cannot just let them carry on regardless, but at the same time we cannot seem to do anything for them.

So what about this:
1. We target all their money streams, drug dealers, child labour and so on as never before.
2. We empower the security gaurds, firstly so that they understand the position of the kids, what we can do for them (not much at the moment) and so they understand that these kids are addicted to drugs, how they go about getting the money, their behavour, etc.
3. We then set up a wet-shelter (they can come in high or drunk) where they can sleep during the day, have a shower, start to get medical and psyhcological/drug rehab treatment and then they are allowed out at night if they want.
4. We assign a security gaurd to each kid to follow them around, educate and stop people giving them money, basically make sure that to get drugs is very difficult because they are being followed all the time.
5. We slowly change their behaviour and move them into the normal system.

So what do you think, I will expand on this or any point if anyone is interested. The main point is that the kids have a safe place to go and sleep, the street environment is made difficult for them to continue begging and using drugs and boundaries are put in place. Yes there are problems, like the kids will just move to the waterfront who refuses to look at anything programme to reduce begging. I however think it is worth starting to serioiusly discuss this idea.


Roxanne said...

I think these are great ideas - the wet-shelter especially will make a big difference.

Another thing that I would like to see are more activities and enrichment programmes like the juggling programme that SAPS had a few years back. Things like that give kids an alternative to drugs, and help to give them something to focus on, while learning a new skill.

It's great to see the discussion coming along!

Gerald said...

1. I think its way too far down the line for this kind of approach, these interventions have already been tried

2. I think we need to look into whether this is a national and whether the same problem exists in other provinces. This could motivate the creation of a special rehab facility for young children.

3. I think because there is no facility to be found the next best thing is to get them deeper into the system, I think rather have them under strict supervision at lindelani than on the street whcih makes me think that we shoud even try to look at creating such a structure at lindelani as they already have the man power and resources at their disposal. Rather invest more there than having security guards following them around.

4. As part of a long term strategy we need to look at ways of clamping down on the inexusable drug situation in cape town which includes the notorious block of flats close to long street.

5. We should definitely look at ways of educating every tourist that comes to cape town about giving children money or food on the street.

ILL end of saying Lets look at creating this structure at LINDELANI in stellenbosch but lets remove them first whether by force or catching them with drugs and having them arrested.

Brown said...

Thanks for continuing the discussion Paul! As for the suggestion points:

1. This definitely needs to happen. and it needs to be permanent and ongoing solutions to these things; not just for the benefit of these children, but also for future ones.

2. I feel that the security guards DEFINITELY need more training when it comes to dealing with/handling the children. however, the security guards, and their responses to the kids, are merely a manifestation of a deeper problem/ill: the pressure the businesses and CCID put on THEM to remove the kids (with no training, no real guidance, and no resources to be able to do this with the best interest of the children in mind). all that to say, yes, they need better training, but we also need a "top down" approach.

3. i still don't know how i feel about this idea (we spoke about it the other day). i would like to move away from the idea of "shelters" or any drop in centre/residential care facility in downtown CBD because i feel like they often end up attracting/enabling the children to be on the streets more than get them off. i also feel that it would pull others, and even if others were not allowed in, that could also cause conflict.

4. this is radical. i cannot see this practically working.

5. Gerald, Clinton, Brooke, (and the list goes on) can all testify that this has been attempted over many, many years, in a very holitic way and becaus ethe drug addiction is so strong, it has really been in vain up and until this point.

I still feel strongly that a special program is going to have to be developed for these kids (but it could also be used for future kids form the communities that are extremely troubled/problematic), and i feel that it will need to be pretty far outside of the city, and i do feel that it will have to be manditory. so yeah. let the discussion continue!

PaulCpt said...

How I hate this world sometimes, it reduces me to tears for the innocent. With all the power in the world no-one can do anything about Zimbabwe and the poor and the innocent continue to suffer so horribly. No-one can sort one mentally unstable old man out and allow millions to suffer instead. How useless is it going to be to try and save a few kids on the streets of Cape Town, all I hear is what will not work, that there is no solution.

So a next question, to answer Gerald, what will these kids go through if we force them into Lindelani, without the proper support and drug rehab...absolute hell and when they are released they will just return to their old ways, only now even more angry with the system.

They cannot just be left, day after day sleeping in the sun, begging and drugging at night.

Its time for me to go stomping on some high-level doors with the following agenda: What can I get the authorities to do about it. watch this space:

Gerald said...

Well as much as I used to hear bad thigs about lindelani in the beginning, Ive seen many boys make huge turn arounds in their life and I can mention names. They have social workers,occupational therapists and child care workers in a very secure setting although some kids do escape. So all of us should maybe just take a drive there and have a look at their facilities and see. Because they already dealing with young children and have a secure setting and all these people lets look if there isnt space for this kind of facility. Lindelani is not that bad. Paul when last have you been there?

Michelle said...

I agree with Gerald that educating the tourists would make a difference. Contacting the airlines that bring in tourists from countries where there are no street children would have quite an impact as these are probably the biggest culprits when it comes to giving cash to the children. The airlines could put articles in their magazines and maybe even sponsor the rehab centre. I could help with this. Michelle

Roxanne said...

I think Michelle has the right idea - education and awareness is very important, especially with tourists.

One thing that worries me about the forced removals to Lindelani is how the day stroller will figure into this equation. Some of these kids are not heavy drug addicts, and have homes (even if they don't return home as much as they should). Taking these kids and putting them into a drug rehab shelter with kids who are in a bad state is not a good solution, but obviously they can't keep spending more and more time on the streets either.

This is why I think that places that offer some sort of enrichment, whether it's sports or activities or even just somewhere they can go to shower and eat - at least that could offer them some sort of diversion.

Gerald said...

Well I think that we are referring to a very small group of kids when we talk about forced removals. I think we are looking at an immediate plan a medium term plan as well as a long term plan. I think that this issue requires a multi faceted approach where we look at Tourism, Drug accesibility, Security,policy, existing services, etc so you addressing it in a curative, rehabilitative, developmental and preventative way. Linedelani will not work for everybody but might be a way out for the small group currently in long street. We would ned a different strategy for the day strollers which Im sure we could come up with amongst ourselves and Ryan has already come up with some innovative ones. My concern is that while we speak thetime is clicking for those kids on long street and we need to do something.

klinto said...

I would usually like to think that every idea needs to be tried out before I would say that its not going to work but I'm not sure if Lindelani is an option. While working at the CCID, we considered this as an option for Bonani already. Lindelani will only accept boys who have been sent their by the courts and who have commited a crime. Bonani was there just over a year ago for breaking into a car. He spent a few months there and returned immediately to the streets once he was released. I'm not sure how much addictions counselling he recieved while he was there but he certainly hadn't managed to kick any of his drug habits, or perhaps it was because he felt that when he got out the streets was the only place he could go.
The focus of these discussions is on a very small group of boys at the moment who are beggin in long street but there are plenty of other older boys and girls (lets not forget about the girls) out there facing similar crises. They have grown up on the streets and are just as drug addicted and probably much more involved in crime, spending thier lives going in and out of prison. They've passed the point of the kids being discussed and are in just an as hopeless situation. They're not as visible but equaly in need of an intervention that deals with their addictions, poor sense of self worth and allows them to realise thier potential.
Its way past the time for an entirely new solution to be developed and I believe that these boys and girls need to be part of developing the solution. We need to start trying other approaches to see what really works. And a good place might be to start by looking at all the approaches that have already been tried and why they didn't work.
Let us not undermine these people. Thinking that we know better than them because we are older, more educated or have more money. The people with the answers to this problem are the people who are facing these challenges and struggling through them and ofcourse there are many who have already done so. Many of us have valuable insights and good understandings of what could happen but we need to be talking to the people we are trying to help. They need to be a part of developing the answers to these difficult questions that are being asked. Only then will we find a solution that they also believe in and has a greater chance of success.

Leo said...

In my opinion forced removal is the only way forward with these kids. Drug addiction in children is a very complex problem. It will not work to wean them or take it slowly, because with the abuse of such drugs you are already running against the clock.
The ideal would be a programme that catered specifically for the needs of these youth, preferably outside the city. But if that is not an option then go for the next best thing. Then if it is felt that Lindelani is not meeting their needs enough then that is something that can be worked on. These kids are going to be unhappy and angry where ever they are placed, but they need to be there long enough for rehabilitation.
There are organisations that work specifically with youth from the same circumstances, it would be interesting to contact them and ask them for their advice and experience. Just because South Africa does not house such a programme does not mean that we cannot access expertise.