Homeless ‘rescued’, then abandoned

17 September 2021 | Local News

JEMIMA BEUKES/LIMBA MUPETAMI



WINDHOEK

“We were better off on the streets.” These are the sentiments of some of the homeless people sheltered at the Katutura College of the Arts (KCAC) and Khomasdal Stadium when Namibian Sun visited them this week to assess their living conditions.

Claiming they have been forgotten, the group of about 150 say they were better off under the Wernhil bridge and in ‘prosperous’ alleys in town - where alms are easy to come by - than begging for government food parcels at their tented ‘villages’.

Rounded up by government officials at the dawn of the Covid-19 pandemic to curb the spread of the virus, they say they have been left high and dry by government.

Those settled at the Khomasdal Stadium say they are denied the opportunity to ‘zula’ to survive and are forced to wait desperately on government to come to their aid.

They, however, accused government officials in charge of the shelters of stealing food aid and donations from Good Samaritans as well as depriving them of Harambee food parcels.

“We see so many cars and trucks coming in here with meat and lots of food but we never see that food. We only zula here, we only ‘gabba’ [line-up for handouts] with an ice-cream container for oil and maize in the mornings and when we gabba, it’s once or twice a week, and when they feel like giving us food,” they said.

‘We are suffering’

One of the homeless, David Bernado, who hails from Tsumeb, said he only knows the streets and has been in jail several times.

According to him, they see trucks coming in with carcasses of meat but only receive ‘soup bones’ which they cannot even cook with, because they have no firewood.

According to him, the City of Windhoek supplies them with firewood but for the last three weeks, they have not received anything.

“We are really suffering here. Look at the woman cooking there, open that pot and see the kind of food in that pot. Last week, we saw a white man coming here with a Land Cruiser with meat but we only received bones that should be given to dogs.

“The officials come in the morning with empty handbags and leave in the afternoon with handbags they cannot even carry. We wonder what they are carrying in those bags. Perhaps our food. When we ask for food, they say there is nothing,” he said.

They also lamented exploitation by so-called Good Samaritans and churches who instruct them to fill in forms for aid, but help never comes.

“There was a pastor from a South African church who made us write our details and promised us clothes and toiletries but they never came back again,” they said.

Worrying about future

“All of us used the cellphone of one the social workers to apply for the N$750 [Covid-19 emergency income] grant but not a single one of us received that money or feedback from her. She is now gone and we received nothing,” one of the homeless said.

He added that they are not allowed to speak to anyone from the media, and at times, the gates are locked. They also stressed their worry about how they will cope when it starts raining.

“We don’t even have blankets. This other time I found a blanket in the rubbish bin, washed it and that is what I use. But the holes have grown bigger,” he said.

At the KCAC, the situation is even more dire as there are no daily portions of food and the homeless here are left to their own mercy.

Although they receive the so-called Harambee food parcels, these come only once a month and are often delayed for weeks.

Passing the buck

The volunteers on site told Namibian Sun that they are supervised by a social worker named Alida Wallace.

When contacted for comment, Wallace

said she left the shelter and is no longer responsible for the homeless. She referred queries to regional health director, Tomas Ukola the regional health director.

He, in turn, was surprised to learn Wallace referred questions to him.

According to Ukola, while they are not responsible for the general upkeep of the shelter, the social workers under his office are supposed to provide psychosocial support to the homeless.

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