Gift-giving, feeding sessions better than giving alms to beggars

MANILA — The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) on Monday reiterated its appeal to the public to refrain from giving alms to children in the streets.

Pag may natatanggap sila doon sa area na yun, doon na sila maglalagi (If they get money in that area, they will stay there all the time). It’s dangerous for them to lurk in the streets, they are prone to be run over and other health hazards,” DSWD spokesperson Irene Dumlao said in an interview.

The agency, she said, has renewed its call because more children are seen begging on the streets again as the Christmas draws near.

It also applies, she said, to homeless individuals and some members of the Indigenous Peoples (IP) group.

She said this is pursuant to Presidential Decree (PD) No. 1563 or the Anti-Mendicancy Law which prohibits begging or soliciting charitable donations by the poor and other religious organizations on the streets.

Getting used to

In a separate interview, a psychologist shards other bad aspects that might be inhibited by children if they get accustomed to receiving money in the streets.

“Children may get used to dole-outs or handouts that may cause them to rely on similar forms of income when they get older,” Dr. Mabelle Soriano Lemen said, adding that “at the same time, being out in the streets will also expose them to people who might take advantage of them”. 

Dumlao also specified that their office, in coordination with the local government units (LGUs), is rescuing children on the streets. 

Better alternatives

Instead of giving alms, DSWD advises the public to provide responsible types of assistance such as conducting organized gift-giving and caroling activities, feeding sessions, story-telling, and medical missions at the activity centers in LGUs to keep street dwellers and IP groups away from mendicant activities that may endanger their lives.

Together with LGUs, the department operates and manages community-based child-friendly spaces or activity centers where children in street situations can play, learn, eat, bathe, and socialize as they are monitored and cared for by social workers and volunteers.

DSWD also implements the Modified Conditional Cash Transfer for Homeless Street Families (MCCT-HSF), an expansion of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), which specifically caters to homeless families living on the streets.

Beneficiaries of this program get education and health grants; access to social services; economic opportunities; and rent subsidy for a period of six to 12 months or depending on the capability of the household-beneficiaries to improve their living condition. 

The DSWD said a total of 201,526 homeless families are included in the program, as of July 31, 2019.

They also have a reach-out team that responds to the reported incidents of children or individuals-at-risk on the streets in Metro Manila. Concerned citizens may report through the Twitter account, @savestreetkids, and indicate the exact location and other pertinent information about the sighting.

DSWD said a multi-stakeholder effort remains vital in addressing the concerns of street dwellers and homeless families.  Christine Cudis / PNA-