Homeless man keeps up with the times and triples his income

Amid social distancing regulations, Simon Kekana has made an innovative plan to still get enough money to eat - and it has paid off handsomely.

Homeless man Simon Kekana, 35, is using social distancing to triple the amount of money he takes daily, begging at traffic lights in Kensington, Johannesburg.

Most people are familiar with the sight of homeless people begging with polystyrene cups or tins at major intersections.

But the lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus and social distancing put Kekana, who is from Hammanskraal near Pretoria and who hasn’t worked for six years since losing his job as a roofer, in a tight spot.

“People were telling me not to come close, to get away from them, they didn’t want to catch corona,” he said on Tuesday, at the corner of Cumberland Road and Queen Street.

“I knew about social distancing, so I thought about it and made a plan.”

Kekana bound two sticks together with plastic and tied a cup on the end with string. Now, he offers the cup to drivers while standing two metres away – and the results have put more food in his belly.

“I was making R45 a day just with a cup before lockdown and social distancing,” he said. “With the stick, I am making between R120 and R150 a day.”

It is money Kekana desperately needs because he has no home to go to and sleeps in the dangerous Jules Street in nearby Malvern, eastern Joburg.

“I need to eat,” he said. “I can’t get a job so I must beg.”

While The Citizen was interviewing Kekana, three cars stopped when they saw him with his cup on a stick and gave him loose change.

“When people see the stick, they are happy,” said Kekana. “They don’t shy away from me or close their windows.”

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