Vusi Dube, left, The Hurley Centre’s Raymond Perrier and Luis Lusis at Afro’s Chicken Shop, showing their support for the Social Meal Project. Picture: Bongani Mbatha

The Social Meal Project, an invitation to diners in Durban restaurants and cafés to help the less fortunate, is being led by Afro’s Chicken where customers will be asked if they would like to “share a meal” with a homeless person.

The campaign was pioneered by the Denis Hurley Centre last year with the support of advertising agency Ogilvy and Mather Durban and fashion photographer Jono Nienaber. Members of the homeless community have told their stories to put a face to the project that highlights the problem of homelessness.

The project generates funds received from the patrons of participating restaurants to feed the poor and shows the human face of the homeless by featuring eight profiles of the city’s homeless people. A table talker/menu insert which profiles a named homeless person invites patrons to make a donation by adding it to their meal bill or by using Zapper.

“The Denis Hurley Centre welcomes up to 300 homeless people each day,” director Raymond Perrier said.

“We estimate that it costs about R15 to provide breakfast, lunch, a hot shower and clean clothes to one person. So we are asking people to donate R15, or multiples thereof, so they can ‘share a meal’ with a homeless person.”

He said the photographs helped diners to see the homeless person as someone with dignity.

“We saw from last year that this campaign encourages people to look the homeless in the eye and in so doing to engage with mutual respect and humanity,” he said.

Dee Gravett of Afro’s Chicken said the campaign was about “keeping it real”.

“The challenge we are making to everyone in Durban, whether holiday-makers, residents or government officials, is to see the homeless as fellow citizens. They are not a problem to be solved but part of the richness that makes Durban the remarkable city we are proud to be part of,” Gravett said.

Ogilvy Durban account manager Lwazi Mthabela said the campaign aimed to initiate conversations the causes of homelessness.

Hurley Centre social worker, Cathy Murrugan, said providing daily meals helped staff to win the trust of homeless people.

“Then they are willing to open up and let us help them reunite with their families, attend to their health, prepare for a drug rehab programme or join one of our programmes to train and find employment,” Murrugan said.

Restaurants interested in participating should contact [email protected] For more information about the Denis Hurley Centre, contact Raymond Perrier on 031 301 2240 / 076 570 2497 or [email protected] – Mercury Reporter