u-turn 25 birthday

The next time you are at an intersection or come across a homeless person, do not dispense cash but instead purchase a Mi-Change voucher that offers sustainable solutions to those who are destitute.

In a bid to encourage responsible giving, NGOs U-turn Homeless Ministries and MES developed the Mi-change voucher initiative, a responsible giving programme that allows people to support the homeless without giving them cash that might fuel addiction and dependency.

The R50 vouchers can be exchanged for a variety of essential services, including clothing, toiletries, shelter, blankets, showers and ablutions, and food at U-turn or MES homeless support centres.

U-turn Homeless Ministries spokesperson Cathy Achilles said that since its launch there had been 22 690 vouchers redeemed by approximately 1 947 people at U-turn support centres alone.

Achilles said those who produced a voucher also had access to a therapeutic programme that equipped them with the skills to escape homelessness.

She said both organisations had used independent voucher systems for years to restore the dignity of the homeless.

“The Mi-Change voucher was launched specifically to encourage collaboration between NGOs and ultimately benefit more people facing homelessness across the city.”

One lucky recipient of the voucher, Dimitri Cupido, 31, whose life was changed after he was given the voucher, said today he was sober, employed and independent.

He received the voucher from a couple after he had slept rough for years owing to substance abuse which began when he was 13. While he was living on the streets, he said a couple would frequently give him a meal and a U-turn voucher, which at times he would turn down.

However, after being released from prison he went back to the couple. They gave him the voucher and referred him to a service centre in Claremont.

He said he had been through all the phases of the programme and at the beginning of last year graduated into independent employment as an organisation’s sales associate.

Cupido is currently the foreman of Living Roots, one of organisation’s social enterprises that contribute to bio-diversity protection through endemic gardening and greening.

He wants to open his own gardening service one day. – Mthuthuzeli Ntseku, Cape Argus

Originally published in the Cape Argus on 13 January 2023