Posted on 26 November 2015.
Life took a complete turn for May Lacson, who used to call the streets of Manila home before becoming a beneficiary of the Modified Conditional Cash Transfer Program for Homeless Street Families (MCCT-HSF) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
“Kung dati po patalim ang hawak ko, ngayon rosary na (I used to hold a knife, but now, I just hold a rosary),” recounted May in an interview during the initial broadcast of the I-PUSH Natin ang Pagbabago radio program of DZRH. The show airs every Saturday from 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 nn.
May added, “Napakahirap po ng buhay sa kalye, dapat po matuto ka talagang maging matigas. Inaamin ko pong matigas ang ulo ko dati. Nasubukan ko na din mag-drugs. Kaya nagpapasalamat ako at iniabot ng DSWD ang kamay ng pagtulong sa amin na parang patapon ang turing ng iba (Life on the streets is difficult. You must learn how to be tough. I admit that I was hardheaded before. I even tried using drugs. That is why I am thankful to DSWD for reaching their helping hands out to us who are considered by many as social outcasts).”
Tough life on the streets
The MCCT-HSF is an expansion of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program which provides a complete package of assistance to street families, including responsive shelter program, access to social services, and economic opportunities for the improvement of their living conditions. It also extends house rental assistance of up to P4,000 per month from six months to one year. MCCT-HSF started in 2012.
To date, a total of 4,408 families are registered in the program. Some 700 families are already paying their own house rental after they gained a steady source of income through the livelihood component of the program.
A single parent, May and her two children were among the first beneficiaries of the MCCT-HSF program in August 2012.
According to May, she actually had three children but lost one child to meningitis in 2004 while they were still living on the streets.
Recounting her previous life, May said they used to live within the Port Area, Manila near the office of the Department of Public Works and Highways. They were staying in a makeshift house made of tarpaulins and empty boxes when the DSWD found them.
After further assessment, the Lacson family was transferred to a rented house as part of the program assistance in November 2012.
Life changing program
With her voice breaking, May said, “Napakalaki ng pasasalamat ko sa DSWD sa tulong na ito. Ngayon ay masaya ako at ligtas na ang pamilya ko dahil may sarili na kaming bahay (We greatly thank DSWD for the help. I am happy that my family is now safe inside our own rented house).”
DSWD Secretary Corazon Juliano-Soliman said the MCCT-HSF is designed particularly to help the homeless street families year-round.
“Contrary to reports that street families are just given attention during big events like the APEC, the DSWD has been implementing the program as early as 2012.”
“Hindi kami nagtatago ng mga street families, kasi hindi naman naitatago ang kahirapan. Talagang parte ng programa ang oryentasyon na ginagawa (We do not hide the street families, as we all know we can never hide poverty. Orienting the beneficiaries is an integral part of the MCCT-HSF program),” the Secretary added.
May affirmed saying, “Hindi po kami itinago, tinulungan po kami. Tinuruan din kaming maging mabuting tao, maging mabuting magulang, at mabuting anak sa pamamagitan ng Family Development Sessions o FDS (We were never hidden, we were helped by DSWD. We were taught to be good citizens, be better parents and children through the FDS.)”
Sec. Soliman explained that the FDS is one of the conditions of the MCCT-HSF program wherein beneficiaries attend monthly sessions on responsible parenting and values formation as well as trainings on livelihood to ensure that they will have a sustainable source of income.
For May, she is employed as a street sweeper under the Cash-for-Work, also a component of MCCT-HSF.
“Nag-street sweeper po ako bilang parte nung Cash-for-Work program ng MCCT-HSF, tapos nagpepedicab din po ako. Sa umaga, pedicab po tapos sa tanghali pasok na sa trabaho (I work as a street sweeper as part of the cash for work program, and I also work as a pedicab driver in the morning),” May said.
When asked for her final message, May has this to say for her fellow beneficiaries, “Sa mga kapwa ko mga dating nasa lansangan, dapat po natin alalahanin na dapat pagyamanin natin ang tulong ng gobyerno. Hindi lahat iaasa, dapat magtrabaho din. Ako, narealize ko kaya ko din pala, kaya nagsisikap ako. Gusto ko din makapag-aral pa balang araw (To all my fellow former street dwellers, we should treasure the assistance of government. We should not rely only on their help. We should also work to help ourselves).” ###