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SU, town join forces to help destitute

The challenges facing destitute people on the streets of Stellenbosch came under the spotlight at a recent meeting of the Rector-Mayor Forum, a joint structure that facilitates collaboration between Stellenbosch University (SU) and Stellenbosch Municipality to the benefit of the town and its people.

The University provided feedback about its research into the issue, and the Municipality gave an update on its Give Responsibly campaign.

“It is estimated that on any given day, 150 people find themselves destitute on the streets of Stellenbosch Central. However, data seems unreliable and might also fluctuate based on seasonal movements of people,” Mr Jacob du Plessis of SU’s Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology, who is heading up the research, said in response to a query.

“Living on the street makes people more vulnerable. That is why we need to understand the extent of the problem. That will help to access social services and to draw up action plans for addressing this social issue.”

Prof Wim de Villiers, SU rector and vice-chancellor, said it was encouraging that the research project was cross-cutting, involving a variety of disciplines such as psychology, law, economics, sociology, tourism and more.

“We are supporting this project because it can have a significant impact on the community,” he said.

Advocate Gesie van Deventer, executive mayor of Stellenbosch, said the research would enable officials to channel and direct resources more effectively.

In March, the municipality launched the Give Responsibly campaign to encourage the donation of coupons instead of cash to those in need. Coupons are available from any outlet displaying the Give Responsibly poster. Coupons cost R10 each, and recipients can exchange them for food, blankets or shelter at participating organisations.

Dr Leslie van Rooi, Senior Director: Social Impact and Transformation at SU, said the University is an active participant in the campaign. Coupons are available from some residences and clusters, and students and staff can also purchase them from the Spar in the Neelsie. In the first three months this year, more than 800 coupons were sold.

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