OPINION: Homeless deserve some compassion

Life on the streets is tough.

Unlucky is the man wearing torn clothes in the streets of any town.

Early mornings in Cape Town are when you will see people sleeping on the pavements and on shop door steps. We glance and pass as if nothing is wrong. But there is a lot of wrong when people are sleeping on pavements with cardboard and plastic as blankets. You might not see them but the odour that comes from where they are is unavoidable.

Life on the streets is surely tough without many things like soap, water or any other basic necessities.

It is a life of cheap wine, glue to sniff and rotten food from the bin.

But how we treat those on the streets is unpalatable to me.

How we ignore them is a sin. The government has no time for them too.

I remember before the spectacle of the 2010 Fifa World Cup, they were removed from the centre of Cape Town.

They were banished because the world could not see that we have such people. That was deplorable. After the World Cup, we behaved as a normal country with no problems of our own.

We were happy to chase our brothers and a sisters that we could not handle away. It was a relief to many because they cannot stand their smell, the begging and the way they look.

We saw nothing wrong for a city to behave in that manner.

I will be the first to admit that I cannot stand any person begging especially in restaurants or any place where there is food.

One day a man stuttered next to me in food shop while I was having my meal.

The owner was busy laughing because he was used to the man. But I had to call the owner to order by telling him that what he was doing was actually chasing the customers away.

He wanted to know how. I explained to him that I was at the shop to enjoy food not to have stinking beggars on top of me with the owner seeing nothing wrong.

He thought I was too big headed and the hater of the homeless and the poor.

I had to tell him that I have no time to hate people.

I don’t hate the homeless but can’t deal with it when I am out eating.

Even “normal people” should not come begging while I am eating.

When I have time I speak to and ask the homeless questions.

I have time for them in the mornings. Every time I go to the gym, I chat with them in St George’s Mall.

I have heard horrible stories of how and why they left their homes. Yes some are on the streets because they were undisciplined. But there are genuine cases of men and women who left home out of pressure.

They wanted to achieve a lot but could not. Some came to the city knowing no one but hoping they will get a paying job. Some could not handle the abuse of their spouses.

Before judging those on the streets, find out their reason for being there first.

I have done that. You can do it even if there is nothing you can do about it, just like me. But it pains me to see how we treat them and judge them.

You can be the most successful person around but if you have no humility, love and care for others, you won’t go far.

There are many out there who strut around behaving like they own the world, ignoring the poor.

Homelessness is surely a problem that the government needs to look at too, with the shortage of housing, jobs and some basics services.