Carlos Mesquita brings in a guest writer to contribute to this week’s column, something he has always strived for as many voices need to be heard to help make homeless people’s lived experience real for those not in homelessness. Photographer: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)
Carlos Mesquita brings in a guest writer to contribute to this week’s column, something he has always strived for as many voices need to be heard to help make homeless people’s lived experience real for those not in homelessness. Photographer: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)

The homeless are not just mud, they should be valued

By Opinion Time of article published Mar 3, 2021

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by Carlos Mesquita and Mister Man

If you are reading my column, then I have a most tolerant editor. I had every intention of discussing my concept of bringing in co-writers every now and again as a means of extending the voice of the homeless beyond my own.

The opportunity to do so happened so organically that there just wasn’t the time ...

I met a young man on Friday that came to our HOUSE, a strong candidate for assisting me in mobilising homeless people on the streets into groups that will send representation to the soon to be established Homeless Action Coalition.

We had a short chat. Later, as I was walking in town, I heard my name. It was him. He told me he had been inspired to do something for the cause I was fighting for on behalf of the homeless, and asked that I not hold his standing in the “nommer” (the 26’s, 27’s and 28’s gangs) against him. He refers to himself as Mr Man.

He told me he had written something that he would like me to read. It would reveal to me his greatest wish.

In front of me lay what I had been looking for. A homeless voice that would add value to my column. It was just as, if not more defining, than my own.

I agreed to writing this column for one reason only. I not only recognised but knew the dire need for a homeless voice in the mainstream press, a desire I shared with my friend and predecessor, Danny Oosthuizen, who, during a memorial service on World Homeless Day (for fallen heroes that had lived and died on the street), sent me a clear sign that I must not hesitate in taking up the opportunity because the voice is bigger than all the excuses I can conjure up for not accepting the challenge.

I knew then that many voices need to be heard to make our experience real for those not in homelessness - changing public perceptions and bringing about change.

In my hand, now, I recognised the first of these voices:

“The Best Discovery” by Mr Man

“To be homeless on the streets is my biggest challenge in life. The struggle is unbearable. I only hope the struggle is worth it.

The question is, Was I right to have lived my life as an outlaw?

One day, on the beach exploring caves, I entered a cave and found a canvas bag full of mud balls.

I took the bag and as I strolled along the beach, I threw the mud balls, one by one, as far as I could into the sea. On a rocky stretch, one of the balls fell out of my hand and broke open. Inside was a precious little stone. I could have been rich, yet had thrown it all way.

It is the same with people. They see a homeless person beg for food or money and they see the outlaw, intent on committing a crime, but if my mud peals off they will see Thys and not Mr Man.

Try to look beyond the mud and you will find the essence of the person. What you discover might shock you but you will know my name is Thys, not Mr Man.

Mr Man (in gangster circles) referred to me as a high-ranking member of one of the ‘numbers’ (26/27/28s) gangs and so, can facilitate my engagements with the homeless who live their homelessness in this prison gang order.”

These individuals are viewed by society in a negative light, yet it is another generalisation, and misconception, that need to be addressed.

This perception is based on the role he took on to protect himself in a system that had made him a criminal even before he had committed his first crime. Curious to find out more? SO AM I!

* Guest writer Mr Man contributed to this column.

** Carlos Mesquita and a handful of others formed HAC (the Homeless Action Committee) that lobbies for the rights of the homeless. He also manages Our House in Oranjezicht, which is powered by the Community Chest.

*** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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