Sheltering the vulnerable can’t be business, but it can be costly

15Sep 2020
The Guardian
Sheltering the vulnerable can’t be business, but it can be costly

​​​​​​​SOMETHING of a Gordian Knot in policy making is coming up concerning sheltering vulnerable  groups of people caught up in the misfortunes of life and essentially needing a roof over their heads. That of course goes with a minimal supply of food,-

-even if a care institution might not be able to afford  three proper meals a day. Yet it is unquestionable that those who are admitted to such facilities ought to feel they are welcome, not exploited or put under duress.

That is what the government appears to be signaling to non-governmental organizations and individuals who have created foster care units of various sorts, some of them amply organized by SOS Children Tanzania, whose villages are grouped under the Benjamin Mkapa Foundation. It is unlikely that all those who make efforts at care giving will be amply facilitated essentially from foreign sources, as often benefactors want to see something on the ground first. So there comes a start up and viability problem, whether it is designed by gain and loss or just the cost of services.

A notice in that direction issued lately by the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children unveiling new regulations to guide establishment and running of shelters for vulnerable groups was particularly emphatic on not turning such activity into a business oriented enterprise. It said the changes are aimed at enhancing security and quality of service to beneficiaries. Permanent Secretary (Community Development) Dr John Jingu said the new guidelines cover the establishment and operation of homes for the elderly and homeless as well as safe houses for victims of abuses and human trafficking. That is a broad range of persons.

Outlining reasons for moving changes in that sphere, he said that the shift is a result of private entities such as non-governmental organisations (NGOs), religious organizations and even individuals offering the crucial services. starting to run the shelters as businesses. The new regulations require that such centres be established and run as service with the recipients benefiting and not operators, which opens up a problem, as to whether this is meant to operate in the relative case or in an absolute way. The details show it is meant to be a matter of principle.

To ensure that benefits aren’t being pursued in offering shelter, the regulations say that no fees or contributions shall be charged on residents of homes for senior citizens, rehabilitation centres for children in behavioural difficulties, or safe houses for victims of gender based violence. This covers a wide range of categories and if they all seek shelter, their number won’t just run into thousands of relief seekers but well beyond, as it includes victims or potential victims of female genital mutilation, rape, child pregnancy or those rescued from domestic abuse, not to speak of human trafficking. If the latter group is adequately sketched out, most housemaids fit into it.

Well over a tenth of the population would rapidly shift to such centres if everything was being provided and nothing is charged, and then other dimensions of eligibility will come up in that potential stampede. It is unclear how far all this has been worked out, with foreign benefactors (especially foreign NGOs) having but assured the relevant authorities that all needy individuals will be taken care of without charges. The UN agency for migration was all the same consulted, so it must be feasible, prima facie.