The Denis Hurley Centre has started a project to help Durban’s homeless become self-employed newspaper vendors.
Paper Money, in partnership with Independent Media and Urban Lime, started its pilot today with the homeless selling The Mercury and sister paper the Daily News, at intersections around Durban.
To give these sellers a hand up, instead of a hand out, motorists are asked to give the uniformed sellers paper money – a R10 note – half of which will be kept by the homeless person.
Paper Money was the brainchild of Raymond Perrier, the director of the Denis Hurley Centre, which works a lot with the homeless.
Having worked overseas, particularly in London and New York, Perrier saw how homeless people there sold newspapers instead of begging.
However, these publications that were specifically created for sale by the homeless, were expensive to produce and people bought out of obligation and didn’t really read them.
“It was while sitting with Jonny Friedman of Urban Lime that I thought, there are newspapers people are already buying every morning. A partnership with Independent (Media) means the homeless are selling something people are buying regularly anyway.”
Perrier believes that motorists who give do so more freely and feel better about giving to someone who is doing something.
“So rather than moving beggars, change them from being beggars to being entrepreneurs,” he says.
With the pilot starting today, Perrier would ultimately like to see an army of newspaper sellers and not beggars, earning a reliable income with which they can pay for accommodation and get off the streets.
“We want to see people who will build relationships with regular customers and come back and say they got a job or an opportunity.
Instead of being seen as a nuisance we want them to be recognised as fellow citizens playing their part in the shared responsibility to make the city better,” he said.
Friedman is the founder and chief executive of Urban Lime, which is involved in Durban’s urban regeneration.
“We’ve acquired a lot of buildings in and around the city. We’re dedicated and working very hard at bringing the city
back to life,” Friedman says.
Beggars at every intersection on the perimeter of the CBD creates a poor perception of the city as being downtrodden and underinvested.
“This project deals directly with that. It turns the problem into its own solution.
“Once you give a person a uniform, a name badge and the dignity of doing a job, it completely changes the perception.
“As a motorist you feel like they are coming to you with a proposition to buy something, it deals with the indignity of having to beg,” said Friedman.
He said Urban Lime was proud to fund the project to a point where it was able to sustain itself.
“We are committed to see it working, it’s a huge step forward for the city,” Friedman said.
Stuart Talbot, Paper Money’s project manager at the Denis Hurley Centre, scouted street corners around the Durban CBD for almost two months looking for people over the age of 18 who did not beg with children.
“There was a little apprehension from the beginning mainly because they were nervous about being exposed – there is a certain anonymity on the street.
But many were keen because they recognised this project will change the way people see them. They will be doing something legitimate,” Talbot said.
He believes that many people on the street would like to get enough money to be able to get out of the “loop” and Paper Money was geared to help them do just that.