A new cashless voucher system will let the public help the homeless without giving them money that can be spent on drugs and alcohol.
The Mi-Change vouchers were launched at all U-turn service centres on Thursday June 23 and they can be redeemed for a meal, clothing, toiletries, a shower, blankets or a safe place to sleep for the night.
The vouchers have been introduced by U-turn, a non-profit organisation that helps the homeless, and MES (Mould, Empower and Serve) a Christian organisation fighting poverty.
U-turn has been using vouchers for more than 10 years, but they were previously only available at the organisation’s service centres and could only be used for meals or clothing.
“Now, the Mi-Change voucher is redeemed at any partnering service centre for more basic needs including a bed for the night where available,” said U-turn spokesperson Rowen Ravera-Bauer.
According to the Cost of Homelessness in Cape Town report, compiled by Jonathan Hopkins, James Reaper, Sam Vos and Gemma Brough in 2020, the public gives more than R280 million in cash to people begging on the streets in a year. U-turn says this cash is often used to fuel addiction and enable homelessness.
“Over 70% of the people on our streets struggle with addiction. The more we provide money to people in need, the longer they will remain on the streets and the harder it becomes for us to rehabilitate and help the person to rebuild their lives of independence,” said Ms Ravera-Bauer.
The Mi-change vouchers also offer access to support groups, group therapy, rehabilitation and work opportunities.
They are redeemable at any partnering service provider displaying a Mi-change sign. In Fish Hoek, the vouchers are available at Chalk & Cheese, De Kock Estates, Wakefords, Collaborate Retail, Soap Suds Coin Laundry, AP Jones, Enana Trading and Peak Cafe.
A pack of four vouchers costs R50, and R10 from each redeemed voucher goes to the partnering service provider where it is redeemed. The vouchers can also be bought online at MiChange.org and delivered to you.
“This voucher is going to change a lot of people’s lives. When I started, they didn’t have all these new essential services… it makes me feel happy and excited,” said Dimitri Cupido, 33, who has been helped by U-turn.
Mr Cupido praised the organisation’s work, saying: “When you see life unfold in front of you, it’s amazing.”