In our city we have good and bad sitting at the same table, tolerating each other. There are times the lines get blurred. An example is when a tourist falls prey to a scam so smoothly executed it attracts almost no attention.
A local will strike up a conversation with a tourist, and without asking for money, talk about a baby needing to be fed.
They then enter a shop where he will take a big tin of baby formula and the tourist pays for the formula.
As there are no prices on the products, here the scam goes into full swing. R550 gets paid for a tin of formula milk. The local thanks the tourist, goes off with the baby formula, and about 15 minutes later, returns with the milk. It is handed back to the shopkeeper, who gives the local his cut of the deal.
The scam involves many products but formula milk is most popular. The tourists have no idea they and their goodwill have been abused and taken for a ride.
Most of these type of transactions take place in Long Street.
Moving on, I want to share the most horrendous incident I came upon.
Last Tuesday I met a homeless teenager outside the train station. During our conversation, she lifted her top and showed me an open hole on the side of her body (I thought she was going to show me a tattoo or something).
Inside the wound were worms crawling! I kid you not!
I was so horrified. Shocked that she even called them “wurmpies” like they were her pets. When I spoke to people in the area about her, they told me she was well known and had had the worms for some time. What bothers me is nobody really worries about her.
Talking about being horrified, I came face to face with greed from a place I never expected. The rental for my room was initially agreed on at R1500 a month. A few days later I was informed that the room rent is actually R2500. I’m told I should get a roommate if I can’t pay it by myself. My room has now become four walls of misery. All I think of these days is rent money - Nightmare on Harrington Street.
Last night a man got stabbed outside my door.
It was not all doom and gloom the last seven days, however. I managed to take an 18-year old off the street and to a place of safety. It was after hours, and a few phone calls later the Central City Improvement District (CCID) took him to Youth Solutions Africa for the night. CCID fieldworker Headman Ncoko went out of his way to assist. Now and again, an angel smiles.
* Danny Oosthuizen is the #TheDignityProject ambassador. In his weekly daily column for the Cape Argus, he tackles the struggles homeless people face. Connect with Danny on Facebook and on Twitter @masekind3213 or via email: [email protected]
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.