By Leilani S. Junio
MANILA, Oct. 12 (PNA) — The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) said on Monday that the agency has never ceased in addressing the long pressing problem on street-dwelling families, particularly in the National Capital Region (NCR).
“We are addressing it (problem on homeless street families or HSF) since 2013,” said DSWD Secretary Corazon J. Soliman.
According to her, the agency started conducting the assessment and eye survey of street families in 2013 and to date, they have a total of 4,000 HSF benefiting under the Modified Conditional Cash Transfer (MCCT) program.
MCCT is a “special program” of DSWD being implemented for HSF and has features patterned after the regular Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program to cover HSF that are living in the streets.
These HSF become beneficiaries of the MCCT to help solve the problem on street-dwelling, especially in highly populated cities in the NCR like Manila, Pasay, Caloocan, Quezon City, Valenzuela and other cities wherein those families are often seen.
Secretary Soliman said that since the homeless families belong to the “poor category” and the children are exposed to different risks in the streets, they have converged with the concerned local government units (LGUs) to ensure solutions for the problem.
She said it is the LGUs that get the HSF from the streets in their localities since LGUs are given mandate by the Local Government Code to do so.
The DSWD, for its part, is the one that ensures that the families rescued from the streets are given assistance so that they will not continue living in “risky environment.”
In line with this role, families are given orientations or seminars by DSWD social workers wherein the HSF are introduced to a sort of “ideal picture” of a home for them wherein they can live, eat and sleep without fear of any harm that may be inflicted against any of their family members.
Through that “orientation,” the parents are being taught about their obligations to their children as part of their important role in the family.
The children, on the other hand, are given lectures on what is their important role in the society and in the economy and how can education can be a key in fulfilling that role.
They are also given orientation on the importance of personal hygiene and ways on taking care of themselves.
During such seminars, they are also given the idea of the program of the government for them and how can that help improve their lives as well as prevent the risks of exposing themselves in street dwelling.
According to Secretary Soliman, the seminars are important factors in helping the poor sectors to be part of the inclusive growth for all efforts of the government.
She explained the families that agree to be taken away from “risky street environment” are given financial assistance for renting a small apartment where they can live for 12 months.
In that 12-month period, the DSWD also helps the parents to get sustainable income by introducing them to partners that can provide them with skills and livelihood training.
Also during that time, those who have gained skills are given assistance to find jobs as a social preparation for them so that once the 12-month period rental assistance is over, the MCCT beneficiaries will be the one that will continue paying the rental as they already have the means.
“As of now, about 700 families assisted with rental assistance are able to pay the rental fees on their own,” she said, adding she recognizes the fact that despite such effort, there are still families that need to be addressed continuously.
She said that based on eye survey alone, there are still about 1,000 HSF which should be transferred to a safe place environment.
“So, our program is ongoing… With APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) meeting or no APEC meeting, there is the MCCT program,” the DSWD chief said to contradict the claims of Kabataan Party-list Rep. Terry Ridon who said that street children would be hidden by the agency when the APEC Summit hosted by the Philippine government starts to convene by next month.
“It is not the first time that HSF are being removed from the streets… We are doing that activity before in solving the problem… They (Makabayan bloc) are raising that issue whenever there are important visitors in the country,” she noted.
“It is saddening that while they (Makabayan bloc) are saying they are for the poor, it seems that they are refusing to understand and see the good effects of this kind of assistance for the said sector,” she added.
Soliman said it is important that such groups will understand that efforts in MCCT are being done not just because the country has visitors but because there are processes to follow in the conduct of the MCCT program.
“As lawmakers claiming to be for the welfare of the poor, I think they should be the very first ones that will better understand the plight of the poor recipients of the program,” she stressed.
Under the MCCT, the beneficiaries are also given cash grants with conditions to follow such as sending their children to school, receiving vaccination, visiting health centers and attending family development sessions.
Beneficiaries of this type of program are not included before in the CCT because they have no “permanent address.”
Once these beneficiaries are able to fully develop the attitude of “permanently living in a home-type environment” that is away from the streets and get permanent address, they can be shifted as regular CCT beneficiaries. (PNA)