Cape Argus – Elderly on our streets have nowhere to seek shelter

South African philanthropists Cobus Steenkamp and Eunice van Schalkwyk will hike about 90km over five days through the Fish River Canyon in Namibia, starting today.

Their aim is to raise funds for Project Dignity, which plans to deliver re-usable sanitary pads for disadvantaged schoolgirls across the country. (If you want to support them: www.subzpads.co.za/donate-now/).

For the homeless Zimbabweans, the weekend was quite tense as they waited for the outcome of the elections. Sadly there were violent protests in Harare, the capital. They hope that things will get better so they can go back home.

The death of Prof Bongani Mayosi sent shock waves through the country and abroad. Depression is a silent killer. Many homeless, myself included, suffer from this silent killer. Yet as common as it seems nowadays, we never openly speak about it. It is as if we hide in shame.

To take medication regularly is challenging as storage facilities are scarce. It gets stolen, misplaced or we forget to take it. There is nothing positive living on the streets. And with all the negative conversations and actions we have to deal with on a daily basis, it can trigger a deep sadness in your being.

But what worries me the most are the elderly living on our streets. Most cannot work. They can barely skarrel. To make matters worse is the fact that they drink the cheapest wine they can buy – and we all know how bad it is.

Besides the fact that they eat out of dustbins like kings in Sea Point, there is little to look forward too.

Imagine aged 59 and living on the street. There is not enough (if any) old age homes available for these people. If some are lucky enough to get a place in a shelter, they spend almost all their pension on shelter fees and have almost nothing left for the month.

The youngsters can try and find work or an odd job here and there and skarrel, but the elderly cannot. It could have been your grandpa!

Then you get those who rob them of their pension money at month end. Some suffer from diabetes, high blood and arthritis, etc. Ladies might go through menopause. It is not easy. And there is little hope for improvement.

We need to be aware of these challenges. More people are ending up on our streets. Many in areas like Bonteheuwel run to the city due to gang violence in their areas. There is no plan for them. They end up here and have nothing.

We must never become so desensitised to not take these people into consideration. I am very grateful to all the people who go out of their way to support those less fortunate. We would never do without you.

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