Heart-Rending Hardship for the Homeless

While many Namibians are well fed and privileged enough to snuggle up in a warm bed at night, there are others who have to endure one chilly winter night after another on an empty stomach.

When New Era recently early one morning paid a surprise visit to one of the temporary shelters under a well-known bridge in the central business district of Windhoek, the scene that met us was heart-rending to say the least. It was a matter of sheer misery.

Hordes of homeless adults and street kids lay on the cold ground – some still asleep – on used, flattened carton boxes and covered with wafer-thin blankets to keep themselves warm after another freezing night.

With warnings from the weather bureau to prepare for very cold conditions – sub-zero temperatures were forecast – more suffering for these indigent people is certainly in store.

Upon arriving at the bridge the first person to be found awake was a middle-aged woman who introduced herself as “Queen”. She says she has been living there since 1990 and is regarded as the matron of the group.

According to Queen, about fifteen people live under the bridge on a regular basis but that number can fluctuate as people come and go.

“Most of them end up here due to unemployment, a lack of education or being rejected by the community,” said Queen. To make a living they beg and then use the money to buy redundant coat hangers from retail outlets and re-sell them for a small profit to buy food from nearby informal food stalls, she said. “I look after the properties of these people doing business here when they leave in the afternoons to earn an extra dollar,” said Queen. “One good thing is that we live here as one family, caring for and protecting each other and cooking together at night,” she added. According to her they buy water from the nearby carwash at a small fee. “The biggest challenge we however face is when the public toilet closes at night, on Sundays and public holidays, forcing us to use the open space beyond the railway line when nature calls,” she said. “We are mostly dependent on handouts from the community but a certain Charles sometimes gives us old blankets and clothes and provides us with warm soup,” said Queen. “I will highly appreciate somebody out there assisting me with old corrugated-iron sheets since I am getting old and want to put up my own shack while I still can,” said Queen.

Source : New Era

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