Cold, Dark Streets Where Only The Fittest Survive

16 Aug 2016 08:10am
By Francois Lottering
WINDHOEK, 15 AUG (NAMPA) - The hunger is bearable in comparison with the cold and humiliation she feels when people ignore her pleas for a slice of bread to eat, says Zelda Harases.
“It is tough, especially when you have children and have to struggle like this on the streets,” she tells the group of volunteers from the Rhenish Church in Khomasdal who came to bless her with hot soup, clothes and blankets.
Dressed in a soiled thin white jacket with a blue flower pattern to shield her from the cold southerly wind, Harases thanked the team of about 20 youngsters for their good gesture.
She was busy begging for alms in the area of Ausspannplatz when the group, under the watchful eyes of a few elders and Pastor Johan van Wyk, called her aside to give her warm food and warm clothes.
Harases says she often goes to bed hungry and while that feeling may be frightening to other Namibians, it is normal to her.
Not far away, the team found a group of people who took shelter behind the government flats at Ausspannplatz.
Adriano Diergaardt, an ex-convict now free for four months, is among them. He did not shy away from the fact that he did wrong for stealing electronic equipment from a tourist.
His home now is the streets and his only friends are in the same situation. They collect empty bottles and scrap metal to sell for a living.
Coughing and sniffing from a possible flu, Diergaardt says he only wants one thing in life: to live a 'normal' life without having to ‘zula’ (beg) anymore.
“It might now look that God does not answer prayers but tomorrow He will answer,” the frail young man says when asked about his message to other homeless people in Windhoek.
His other ‘family’ is a father, in his late fifties, and his 24-year-old daughter who share the same open room next to a tree. They too landed on the streets after life dealt them a heavy blow. Both refused to disclose their names and the old man did not say much about his ordeals, but his fatherly love was evident when he asked the Samaritans for medicine, as his daughter was not feeling well.
“Perhaps she has flu or a cold, as she is coughing and weak the past few days,” he informs them. This, the church group was not prepared for, as they only brought along men’s and women’s clothes, blankets, hot soup and fresh bread.
The homeless' only heat in the winter is an open fire and they treasure their meagre belongings, some in plastic bags scattered around the blazing fire.
“We are not even sure when we come home after roaming the streets if we will find our belongings here,” said the older man. Even the homeless are targets of criminals who steal anything they can lay their hands on.
The volunteer group drove until almost 03h00, dishing out some basic necessities to children as young as eight and men in their 70s, who use cardboard boxes as shelter, sleep under tables at petrol stations or resort to storm water pipes for shelter.
These people do not have any social safety nets to protect them and are almost daily the victims of thugs and other homeless people who want their little belongings.
Leader of the young Samaritans, Eddy Orlam tells Nampa that seeing people suffer like this touches his heart, hence their presence on the streets to help.
“This gave me the opportunity to appreciate what we have,” Orlam said.
Pastor van Wyk said only a few people know and understand what needy and homeless people go through.
“Church goers are not only to gather every Sunday to worship but to go out in the streets and help the needy,” he said.
One thing is for sure Van Wyk said: “If the youth keep on caring for the less fortunate, we are on the right track”.
As the group leaves the city centre back to their warm homes in Khomasdal, the atmosphere was a mixture of happiness and sombreness – happiness because they could help but sombreness knowing that some people remain in the dark, cold and hostile streets.
For the homeless, the food they received might last only for a few minutes but the assurance that some people still do care, has warmed their hearts on a cold winter night.