A different class of homelessness… as professionals struggle to find work
Alvine Kapitako Windhoek-“I don’t think people are fully aware of the current state of unemployment in Namibia,” were the words of *Mario (not his real name) who has been homeless for close to six months. The 45-year-old is fully qualified and has a wealth of experience of at least 21 years in sales and marketing, customer relations management, data capturing, training, retail and public relations, among others. A ‘few’ wrong choices landed him on the streets of Windhoek where he daily begs for money to pay for his accommodation. Mario lives in a shelter where he daily has to pay N$15 to spend the night but by 08h00 he has to leave because “those are the rules”. “I’ve done various courses so I have a broad knowledge of everything but the current situation is I go out and try to secure a job, but I get words such as you’re overqualified and with my age it’s difficult,” says the eloquent Mario. Accompanied by his friend, 25-year-old *Beverly, Mario spoke of the hardships he has encountered since resigning from his job over a year ago. “I was a second year education student at the University of Namibia but because of financial difficulties I dropped out in 2016,” said Beverly who has been homeless since 2016. Beverly hails from Otjiwarongo. But, she does not want to go back home because her single mother is taking care of her son and a younger sibling. “I don’t have a father figure in my life so my mother is my father and mother. I can’t go back just like that – I have to take care of her, not the other way round,” she said. While Beverly was talking, Mario, who spoke for most of the interview, interrupted: “It’s just morally incorrect for me to go to my parents.” Mario explained that he does not want to burden his elderly parents who depend on social grants. Mario and Beverly bonded instantly when Mario started living at the shelter and he has taken on the role of an older brother. Mario and Beverly work as a team to fend for themselves. Before that, people would take advantage of Beverly’s vulnerable state, especially men, she related. “There was a time when I stayed with a guy whom I told my story but he wanted to sleep with me so I had to move out because I did not want to contract diseases, especially because I don’t know him,” said Beverly. By begging for money on the streets, Mario and Beverly have been exposed to all sorts of verbal lashings. Their daily routine includes struggling for money to buy food, browsing through newspapers to find work, going to the library to apply for work and asking people for money to pay their daily shelter fee. “People have the perception that everyone that’s homeless should be dirty. We still have our dignity, we make an effort every morning to make sure that we go out and look clean,” said Mario, explaining that sometimes when they ask people for money they are told to go look for work. “They don’t know the hardships that we are going through. Every day we go to the bridge and browse through the newspapers for vacancies. We try to apply for vacancies. We desperately need jobs because we are tired and it’s not like we want to stay at the shelter, it’s because of the circumstances,” added Beverly. According to the Namibia Statistics Agency’s Labour Force Survey report of 2016, there are 854,567 youth aged 15 to 34 in Namibia. Out of this, 320,737 were employed, and 246,262 were unemployed. In addition, people with post-school education (such as university, post-graduate (Certificate/Diploma/Masters/PhD)) constitute a combined unemployed rate of 24.5 percent. The highest unemployment rates were found amongst persons with junior secondary and primary education, with a combined unemployment rate of 71.3 percent. Furthermore, the unemployment rate of people with no formal education stands at 34.5 percent, which is slightly above the national unemployment rate, according to the report. Mario derives moral strength by observing people in worse circumstances. His faith in God has also helped him through his struggles. “We also encourage one another. When I am down and out she encourages me to hold on and I do the same,” said Mario. Meanwhile, Mario has called on shopping chains and restaurants to consider a policy of giving their leftovers to the very needy people in society. “A loaf of bread that was baked today and is not sold by today or tomorrow morning is still good to eat, instead of being trashed. That is a waste of resources,” said Mario. *Real names withheld to protect them.
New Era Reporter
2018-02-16 10:27:05 9 months ago