The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) is appealing to the public to extend responsible help to street children instead of giving them alms, which encourages them to further roam the streets, putting their lives at risk.

“Alms-giving is not the kind of help that street children need, as this will only keep them on the streets and expose them to more danger. What they need is responsible help from us,” DSWD Secretary Virginia N. Orogo said.

The Secretary shared that the Department’s advocacy project, the #HelptheHomelessPH campaign, encourages the public to work together and converge all resources to find appropriate strategies and extend responsible help to street dwellers.

“While we discourage alms-giving, we encourage the public to share their time and resources to our street children through our ##HelptheHomelessPH campaign. For instance, they can carry out small reach-out activities and gift-giving events, conduct story-telling or art sessions, or organize feeding programs and medical missions for the street kids in their communities,” she added.

Sec. Orogo said the public may also partner with the DSWD through the Silungan sa Barangay, a project the Department will soon launch for street children and homeless families.

“Our Silungan sa Barangay project aims to give a temporary home or a ‘silungan’ that will serve as a learning and livelihood center for children and families at risk on the streets. Those who want to help our street dwellers may sponsor a ‘silungan’ that will provide a venue for the convergence of holistic services from different groups for our homeless kababayans,” she said.

Role of LGUs

According to DSWD Community Programs and Services Bureau (CPSB) Officer-in-Charge (OIC) Director Rosalie D. Dagulo, the local government has the primary role to look after street children.

Under Section 17 of Republic Act 7160 or the Local Government Code of 1991, local government units (LGUs) have the primary responsibility in the efficient and effective provision of basic social welfare services to their constituents, which include programs and projects on child, youth, women, family, and community welfare; welfare of the elderly and disabled persons; and community-based rehabilitation programs for vagrants, beggars, street children, scavengers, juvenile delinquents, and victims of drug abuse, among others.

“Nasa lokal na pamahalaan po ang panunahing mandato sa pangangalaga sa mga street dwellers. Subalit ang DSWD ay nananatili na gumagawa ng paraan at nakikipag-ugnayan sa ating mga local government units sa mga proyekto at interventions nang sa gayon ay matugunan at ma-address ang problemang ito (It is the LGUs that have the primary mandate to look after street dwellers, but the DSWD continues to look for solutions and engages the local government units in projects and interventions that would help respond to this problem),” the Director explained via an interview for a television news program.

The Director also clarified that children on the streets cannot just be brought immediately to government centers.

“Kailangan munang matukoy kung may magulang at tahanan pang uuwian ang isang batang palaboy. Ang state papasok lang kung ang pamilya ay walang kakayahan na gawin ang kanyang responsibilidad (We need to know if the child has parents or guardians and if the kid still has a house he can go home to. The state will only enter if the family doesn’t have the capacity to fulfill its responsibility),” she said.

“If street children do not have parents or guardians anymore or if they still do, but their parents do not have the capacity to take care of them, that is when they will be brought to the facilities of the government, primarily those managed by the local government units, or to centers managed by non-government organizations,” she added.

According to Dir. Dagulo, the DSWD can also assist the local government units in assessing the children for temporary alternative family care. They can be placed in the accredited agencies and licensed foster families of the Department. The DSWD can also facilitate the adoption of the children.

“The DSWD cannot address the problem of homelessness on its own. The problem is multi-dimensional; so, the approach must also be multi-dimensional,” Sec. Orogo explained.

“We have been actively engaging the local government units and even the private sector in looking for appropriate ways and strategies to address this issue and to reach out to our fellow citizens who have long made the streets their home,” she ended. ###