Carlos Mesquita continues to write his unpleasant experience at a MyCiti stop a stranger was trying to entertain him by ranting about the homeless. Picture: Willem Law/African News Agency (ANA) Archives
Carlos Mesquita continues to write his unpleasant experience at a MyCiti stop a stranger was trying to entertain him by ranting about the homeless. Picture: Willem Law/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

An 'Oscar-winning' truth about being homeless

By Opinion Time of article published Jan 13, 2021

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By Carlos Mesquita

For those of you who might have missed my column last week, I will quickly recap.

I had the unique experience of sitting next to a woman on a MyCiTi bus trip back to “our HOUSE”, the independent living house I run for homeless individuals in Gardens.

The uniqueness came from the fact that this woman decided to tell me all about the unbearable situation with the despicable and vile homeless people in Gardens.

I recognised her as one of our neighbours but she obviously had no clue who I was. As we left the MyCiTi bus depot, I had already decided to have her face her worst nightmare on the day my Argus column is published. After all, she had just become my column for the week.

How could I not bless her with a copy, introduce myself properly and invite her on an eye opening day trip to Gardens that might just show her another side of homelessness.

Alas, it was not to be. Quite frankly she couldn’t even remember me, but on my reminding her, she turned to her son and daughter (late twenties I imagine) who had just arrived and told them that I was the nice man she had told them she met on the bus.

Jumping on the “nice man” break, I handed her a copy of the Argus with a carefully and respectfully worded note informing her that I am a homeless man and that I write a column on homelessness for the Argus every Tuesday.

I also invited her to join me on a field trip to show her another side of homelessness. She read the column and the note. Then in silence, passed it on to her kids.

I tried to make a joke: “See, you never know who you might meet among the homeless.”

Her kids thought I was hilarious. She obviously did not. Her daughter told her in fits of laughter, “You really picked the right one, mom”. The woman was so quiet that I wondered whether I had done the right thing by going there. True to her old self, she suddenly began accusing me of being “one of them”.

Finally, came the one I had been waiting for: “You just said you live on my street that means you are not homeless.”

I tried as best I could to explain my forced removal from Riebeeck Park, my incarceration at Strandfontein and again being dumped on the streets outside Culemborg. Also, how Community Chest had come to our rescue and finally how we moved in as her neighbours about seven months ago.

After a long pause, she finally clapped her hands, took a bow and said, “Oscar winning performance, Sir.”

Disappointed? SO AM I

* 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.

Cape Argus

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