We pass by them daily, the subjugated, destitute humans, holding all their belongings in a few dirty bags or a shopping trolley and living in a cardboard box-the only home they know.
Many of us choose to ignore them as we go on about our daily lives oblivious to their presence despite them being right in front of our eyes.
They beg for spare change or food but before we give them something, the stereotype that destitute people only use money to buy drugs or alcohol comes into our minds, and we drop the planned donation altogether and walk-off only to feel guilty later as we sit in our quiet spaces.
The homeless are known to face many battles, from diseases, poverty and other abject situation which we cannot think of, yet they are forced to endure lives worse than the dogs of wealthy.
Although the World Street Kids Day, which is commemorated annually on 12 April, is still not recognised by United Nations, most nations across the world commemorate the day to remember the endless challenges street kids face.
This year’s commemoration was held under the theme “Child involvement in child protection.”
People living on the streets have resorted to guarding cars, crime, alcohol and drug abuse and emptying dustbins for food to stay alive.
Although the population of street children across the globe is estimated to be in the region of 100 million, government admitted that it does not have any figures regarding street children.
Many of Windhoek’s residents have at one point in their lives walked past a destitute person in the capital, many of you know them as ‘street kids’. As you walk past them you wonder what led to their precarious situation, one so extreme it forces them to put into their mouths food that others would rather throw away in the dustbin.
As winter approaches the situation gets even more awry for those living on the streets, that is how the tale of the rich and poor goes.
Jackoline Boois, 30, who is a mother of five lives under the bridge near TransNamib Holdings in Windhoek. She is a Grade 9 dropout who lost her mother when she was nine-years-old. Following the death of her mother she lived with an aunt and attended school until she dropped out. Things got worse, she says, when her aunt died and she was subsequently forced to fend for herself.
“I have been on the street since 2002. My oldest daughter is nine-years-old this year and the youngest are twins aged 3. They all live at an orphanage in Katutura. I cannot live with my kids because I do not have a proper home, I do not even have a place I can call home,” she said.
Boois said she visits her children during weekends, but only on those weekends when I have collected enough money.
“It is not safe out here, sometimes we are attacked by members of the public and at times even by my fellow brothers whom I ‘zula’ with on the streets,” she narrated.
Boois said all she yearns for is a decent home. “The government should at least provide us with a plot, how can you just year in year out be on the streets asking from people to give you everything?
They should also provide us with jobs, she stressed.
Anna Pekeer is another destitute Namibian who has to brace to spend winter time on the streets of Windhoek.
“I am living on the streets since 2010, I do not want to go home because I am not treated well. I will never return home because they treated me badly which was the reason why I decided to live on the street with my boyfriend. But I do not like the way I live because it is not safe, especially for us women.” Said a dejected Pekeer.
Pekeer narrated how she was once sent to jail after a violent argument with her mother.
“I just want help so that I can assist my mother and my kids who live in Katutura don’t want to go back home because the reason why I am still on the street is because when my mother and I argue I will end up in jail again,” she said.
Hansi Karoeb,21, hails from Omitara in Omaheke region where he lived on the farm with his grandmother who raised him.
He says he cannot read or write because he never went to school.
“I just want to go back home, if someone can just give me transport money I will be happy,” said Karoeb while narrating his story in one of the local languages.
Karoeb said he learnt the hard way and his search for a job is an uphill battle because he never attended school.
“People in this city are rude and at times they even beat us,” Karoeb said.
Government has put up some centres aimed at catering for street children, but the struggle is to get hold of the homeless children.
“There is an after school Centre in Khomasdal where they take the kids that the Ministry together with the City police take off the streets. But the problem is that these kids already know us hence they flee when they see us, they simply do not want to be taken home,” said Senior Communication Officer at the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare Charlie Matengu.
“Unfortunately there is only one Centre for the whole country. This is because it is not really easy to find them in the other towns as most of them hitch hike from town to town,” he said.
The Ministry also tries to find homes for them and according to Matengu they have trained some who currently work for the ministry.