Homeless Men Say They Will Vote – For Housing

09 Oct 2014 19:20pm
By Paulus Shiku

SWAKOPMUND, 09 OCT (NAMPA) – A number of homeless men living on the streets of Swakopmund and Walvis Bay say they plan to vote – but the next president must give them a roof over their heads.
When asked by Nampa this week whether they are registered to vote and what they expect from the next president, the men said their hope is that the new Head of State will make a difference in their lives by building houses or some sort of shelter so they can have somewhere to sleep at night.
Unlike some eligible young voters, the homeless men from the coastal towns are registered and ready to vote in the Presidential and National Assembly elections on 28 November this year.
A case in point - two young women approached by this news agency for their views on elections responded that they are not registered to vote.
“I will never vote, why should I vote? As if it will make a difference,” said one young woman.
The other young woman responded that she does not know who to vote for and besides that she sees no need to participate in the elections.
In Swakopmund, Nampa interviewed Gerhardus Hindisch, 54 and Stephanus Vermeulen, 64.
Freddy Cook, 54 and Anthony Slinger, 44 spoke from Walvis Bay.
“The new president must give us houses and work, I have experience in welding and boiler making. I do not have money to pay for accommodation and no one wants to accommodate me. My mother and stepfather are in Cape Town, South Africa,” said Hindisch.
He explained that he was born in Windhoek and came to Swakopmund for work which he later lost. He then found himself roaming the streets begging for food and money.
When asked how he copes with the cold nights in the often misty town, Hindisch, who has lived on the streets for almost six months now, replied “We put our faith in God to protect us”.
He noted that they go from shop to shop begging for food and money from good Samaritans who in most instances give them the little they have.
Hindisch said he has two daughters - Christa Els and Sannete Venter - who stay in Pretoria, South Africa.
“If they know where I am maybe they will come and get me and maybe give me a job,” he said while chewing on a spoiled piece of bread.
Vermeulen was born in Grootfontein and grew up in Walvis Bay. He said he had a “nice” house there but due to circumstances, lost the house and has been living on the streets of Swakopmund for the past eight years.
He suffers from a number of illnesses, such as Tuberculosis (TB), and says he fears dying on the streets.
Just like his street brother Hindisch, Vermeulen also has two daughters, Wilhelmina and Gloudina who he said live Australia.
He lost contact with them years ago.
“I need a place to sleep, I cannot go to Australia to search for my girls as I have no money. Right now we sleep anywhere in this town. We cover ourselves with these old blankets. But when the elections come I will go and vote for Hage Geingob,” the 64-year-old man said.
Geingob is the Swapo-Party’s presidential candidate.
Vermeulen, who said he is a Swapo-Party supporter, says, “I have respect for (former president) Sam Nujoma and President Hifikepunye Pohamba. I think Hage is a good man for president too,” he said.
He however said he is not registered for Government’s monthly pension grant as he lost the required documents to register for the grant.
The two men estimate that there are about four of them living in the streets of Swakopmund.
Cook sleeps in an old car in Walvis Bay.
“I wish the new president could build compounds like the ones for the police so we can sleep there,” he said.
Slinger on the other hand said he will not vote, adding that he has nothing on his name so it is better to continue begging on the streets.
“I will not vote, tell me why should I vote? I am a nobody with nothing on my name,” said Slinger, who quickly left and stopped a man entering the shop to ask him for money.
Both Cook and Slinger said they have been living on the streets for more than 10 years now.
Residents of Walvis Bay who spoke to this news agency said some of these homeless people have relatives in Walvis Bay but refused to stay with them, saying they are “addicted to life on the streets”.
Walvis Bay deputy mayor Benson Uakumbua said in an interview on Tuesday some of them were reunited with their families last year, but they returned to the streets.
He said when they realised the town council wanted to reunite them with their families, some started avoiding the lawn around the council building where they normally stay and went somewhere else.
Uakumbua however acknowledged that some of them do not have families, and said the authority is planning on providing them with shelter.
“We do not want people living like that. We are planning on expanding the old age home in Kuisebmond to be able to accommodate some of them there. At the same time we are talking to family members to try and convince them to stay home,” he said.
Another idea is to establish a structure where homeless people can be accommodated; hopefully through the assistance of local business owners.
“I am waiting for good Samaritans from the business sector to give us confirmation that they will help us build a shelter for our people. It is really a concern for us that people live in a situation like that,” said Uakumbua.
He further noted that the municipality last year arranged for those who have turned 60 to be assisted with registration for Government pension, but said some of them do not have IDs.