Pretoria - Between 80 and 90 percent of beggars on the street are drug addicts. That makes it impossible to know who is into drugs and who is not; who is going to buy food with the money and who will buy drugs.
This is according to Solidarity Helping Hand, following research undertaken among white beggars on the streets.
The research outlined the causes and effects of begging and drug dependence among white communities, as well as troubled beginnings and difficult adulthoods.
The report focused on white beggars, because there had been no other known studies on white beggars and drug dependence, according to Solidarity. “Life on the streets is full of violence, assault, theft and drugs,” its report stated.
Begging remains one of the most humiliating and less dignified activities any individual can engage in – and white beggars are no exception to this rule, the report found.
During interviews done in rehabilitation, Solidarity was told of the abundance of drugs, and the opportunity those living on the street had at graduating from one to the other.
To feed their dependence, they begged on the side of the street and at traffic lights. Their income ranged between R700 and R1 000 on weekends, and that could get an addict practically anything from a dealer. Money maintained the habit and food and other items were exchanged for money or drugs.
“The complexity of the situation is such that nothing you may do at the traffic light can make any difference,” the report said.
Referring them for assistance was the only way.
From discussions with recovering addicts, Solitary recommended that people not give to beggars.
The addicts spoke of the involvement of foreign syndicates in dealing in and supplying drugs.
“Prostitutes approached the men and robbed to get money for drugs,” one interviewee said. They worked in cahoots with dealers and addicts.
“Satanism” was also part of the underworld of drugs they found themselves in. “Abnormal relationships, favours, debt or knowing too much about something kept the addicts linked to a wider and dangerous network,” said the report.
Among the problems that led the addicts to drugs – and chief among reasons given – were feelings of rejection, either by parents during childhood or being left by partners as adults.
Being abandoned by parents and the resultant feelings of not belonging; living in homes where drugs and alcohol were used freely; growing up in violent homes; and the feelings of freedom during rebellious stages were just some of them.
Adults, some of whom had dabbled in light drug use and in alcohol, told Solidarity how their lives changed when their parents died or when their spouses left them.
One had been good at sport, achieving provincial colours twice in high school. “I tried to fit in and wanted to be more popular,” he said.
When an organisation addressed their school on the dangers of drugs, his curiosity was aroused. He discovered users in school and joined them.
Recommended interventions included a way out of street life and drugs, with Solidarity saying the numbers of people or places providing such assistance should be in the public domain.