Cape Town’s neglected elders left to feed in trash bags
By Hassan Isilow
A neglected old man is living a terrible life on the streets of Bellville. He sleeps under the cold bridge and at times feeds from trash bags.
The senior citizen seen here has been living on the streets of Bellville for several years and there is little hope that the City of Cape Town’s Displaced Peoples Unit (DPU) will find him suitable shelter.
When I approached the homeless elder on Wednesday evening, he was busy begging for money from commuters disembarking off trains at the Bellville station.
He only identified himself as Joseph. He told me, he came to Cape Town several years ago to look for employment, but when he failed to secure a job, he ended up as a vagrant on the streets.
“I started sleeping in abandoned buildings and later, on the streets, together with other people with similar problems like mine,” Joseph said in a voice that gave away his frailty, an indication that he had little to eat for days.
He refused to disclose any information about his family, or the exact location where he came from before ending up on the streets.
Now a familiar figure in the area, Joseph draws more than one sympathetic eye.
“I feel pity for this old man, because his hand is crippled and one of his feet is dislocated. He can not manage street life,” said Tabisa, a female fruit vendor at the Bellville train station.
She thinks the old man could also be suffering from a mental illness.
“He will tell you one story now, but next time you meet, he tells you another version,” she related.
She requested the City of Cape Town’s Displaced Peoples Unit (DPU), to step and help the elderly man.
“It is very shameful to see such an old man, fit to be our grand parent, living a pathetic life on the streets. The authorities should intervene and help,” she appealed.
Feeding on garbage
Meanwhile Joseph said he coped by asking people for money to buy food.
“At times I don’t get money, so I resort to checking the garbage bins where I pick leftovers and feed on them,” he revealed.
Asked if the DPU had ever approached him to help, Joseph refuses to answer this question. He instead, asks for a handout to buy food and upon receiving the money, his interest in the interview is over. He says, he is tired, and can not speak any more.
Meanwhile, last week, the City of Cape Town’s Displaced Peoples Unit managed to re-integrate a woman who had spent most of her life on the streets of Cape Town.
Susan Benette had been living out of an industrial plastic bag on the sidewalk of Main Road in Claremont for the last 25 years.
According to Wayne Aldridge, the principal inspector at DPU, they had tried to assist Benette in the past during numerous operations, but she was never willing to accept their assistance.
However, last week Benette decided to accept their offer to move her from the streets and is currently residing in the Kensington Haven Night Shelter. DPU has promised investigate Joseph’s story.