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Will rehabilitation policy end street families menace?

STREET-FAMILIES-2407D

Street families in Nairobi on July 24, 2020. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • The policy interventions, if fully implemented will have an immediate impact in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru and Uasin Gishu counties that bear the biggest burden of street families.
  • Nairobi leads with 15,337 street persons, Mombasa with 7,529, Kisumu (2,746), Uasin Gishu (2,147) and Nakuru (2,005) .

Street families have continued to grow over the years despite various interventions. The menace that dates back to Independence period has proved a hard nut to crack.

However, the government now says it has put its finger on the heart of the problem and come up with a panacea in the form of a policy. It is banking on the National Policy on Rehabilitation of Street Families of 2020 to ensure that no person opts to live in city and town streets and turn the individuals into productive citizens.

The policy follows the findings of a first-of-its-kind census on street families in the country last year, which revealed that Kenya has 46,639 street families and identified the push-and-pull factors that keep them in the streets.

It is these factors that the policy hopes to address even as it pursues measures to rehabilitate the street persons into the society.

The policy identifies several priority areas.

First, it seeks to prevent the emergence of street families by establishing a multi-disciplinary team within the community to identify persons at high risk of moving into streets.

Among the factors already identified in the 2020 census are high poverty levels, dysfunctional families, death of parents, separation or divorce of parents, abandonment, mistreatment by parents or relatives and corporal punishment.

Others are inability to cope with school life, domestic violence, mental health problems, substance abuse, truancy and unemployment.

After identifying such persons, the team will be required to link them with relevant services and service providers. It will also create a database for the vulnerable persons as well as develop an empowerment plan for the identified needs.

Second, given the low integration levels with the 2020 survey showing that only 14 percent or 7,206 street persons have been rehabilitated, the policy seeks to put in place mechanisms to identify and report new entrants and relapses, map and identify institutions for service provision.

Thirdly, to ensure rehabilitation of the street families, the policy intends to come with rehabilitation intervention guidelines as well as assessment tools.

Fourthly, it proposes reintegration guidelines as well as linkages and referrals together with community support groups.

Lastly, the policy seeks legislation for rehabilitation of the street families.

The policy plans to mainstream street families’ issues in all ministries’, departments and agencies programmes, as well as county government and non-governmental organisations to provide a safe and supportive environment, skills, counselling, encourage peer education as well as enhance community and family empowerment.

The policy interventions, if fully implemented will have an immediate impact in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru and Uasin Gishu counties that bear the biggest burden of street families.

Nairobi leads with 15,337 street persons, Mombasa with 7,529, Kisumu (2,746), Uasin Gishu (2,147) and Nakuru (2,005) .

But it is not a four-county problem only. The survey showed all the 47 counties have street families, most reporting less than 1,000 with males at 72 percent forming the highest number compared to 27.7 percent females.

The street persons have at least reached primary school level while quite a number of them have skill sets ranging from carpentry, masonry, tailoring, hair dressing, ball games, singing and art and craft, offering hope for their successful integration into the society.

According to the study, 31,976 of the street persons or 76 percent have either pre-primary or primary education, another 6, 877 have post primary education (14 percent) while only 7,786 have no education at all.

A total of 13, 566 have home skills including carpentry and joinery, masonry, welding. Females on the streets are more talented in hair dressing, tailoring and dressing making and catering while males were more talented in carpentry and joinery, masonry and welding.

Labour Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui said a lack of national policy on rehabilitation of street families has worsened the situation.

“The policy will provide a coordinated framework to support and empower vulnerable families to resilient livelihoods thus curtailing more persons from resorting to the streets; rescue those already in the streets and undertake rehabilitation programmes designed to make them self-reliant after reintegration into the community,” said Mr Chelugui.

The survey indicated that the population of street persons in Kenya has continued to grow proportionally with the growth in the country’s population, signalling the need for urgent interventions to stop the numbers from increasing.

Mr said the policy will go a long way in supporting the implementation of programmes for the realisation of a country free of street families in line with the country’s long-term development plan (Kenya Vision 2030).