A Coordinated Committee on Street Beggars led by the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation and the Fiji Police Force has intensified its efforts to assist the mentally challenged found on streets across the country.
To date, the Ministry has profiled a total of 78 streets beggars from Suva, Nausori, Ba, Lautoka, Nadi and Labasa.
The chair of this Committee, Minister Hon. Rosy Akbar says that so far 8 mentally challenged individuals who were found on the streets had been referred to Saint Giles Hospital for treatment.
“The Ministry ensures that the mentally challenged are provided with medical treatment. I am glad to say that two of the women street dwellers who had been treated at St Giles have been reunited with their families. We continue to emphasize on the need for families to take a caring and compassionate approach when dealing with mentally challenged, disabled persons and senior citizens,” Minister Akbar emphasized.
She said that whilst trying to address the issue, there are few challenges encountered by the Ministry.
“The key challenge, we faced when we started the operation late last year was the resistance from some of those who have been begging on the streets for quite some time. These are generational beggars who have been on streets for over 20 years. Through consistent mentoring and counselling, the Ministry has been able to get some of them into skills training and income generating programs.
“We have equipped them with skills and tools which has motivated them to work towards becoming self-reliant and live a dignified life. The Ministry works together with Fiji Police to monitor their progress,” Minister Akbar explained.
To date the Ministry has also assisted 8 individuals through sustainable livelihood programs. These are men and women who previously begged on the streets, their lives have been transformed and they now earn their living through small businesses like vegetable selling, canteen and catering to name a few.
Similarly, some have also acquired full time employment through the skills training opportunities provided at the Rehabilitation Centre for Beggars known as “Good Samaritan Inn” at Colo-i-Suva.
“The Centre is doing well and I am informed that two of the trainees are now employed at Crest Chicken factory. Our deepest gratitude and acknowledgement goes to this company for creating employment opportunity to those two men.
“The agricultural and vocational training program is also progressing well and it will provide the way forward for seven other trainees at the Centre to earn a living without having to beg on the streets,” Minister Akbar added.
The “Good Samaritan Inn” was opened in February this year through the funding of $100,000 from the Fijian Government. The Centre aims to provide training and employment opportunities for men who had been begging on the streets. It is equipped with accommodation and training facilities and is administered by Nazarene Church of Fiji.