Danny's Diary: Dealing with being a celebrity
The day I came around the corner on Spin Street and I saw my face on a Cape Argus poster on a pole saying “I am just like you, but I am homeless” I knew life as I knew it would never be the same again.
People having breakfast at Bread, Milk and Honey smiled and waved at me.
I couldn’t get back to the office fast enough. I took refuge behind my desk. My email was flooded with well wishes from all around. I took my phone off the hook.
I was not prepared for this.
The idea was to move me away from the inner city, and I lived for a month in Oranjezicht. From homeless guy to radio and TV interviews. I felt self-conscious and clumsy and at times tongue-tied.
I was asked questions on stats etc etc – of which I had none. I was asked about my life on the streets. I never claimed to be an expert nor official representative of the homeless. I was just the one cheeky enough to open my mouth.
Corporate companies, schools and churches also wanted a slice of me.
Imagine this morning you wake up in a park on a box and tonight you sleep in a world-class five-star hotel at the V&A Waterfront. Just to be dropped off again in the park.
Obviously your boxes are stolen so you must now skarrel for new ones… The buzz died down.
Financially I’ve been unable to get my own place. Rental was anything from R3500 to R4000 if you share a room in a house/flat.
Shelters were not keen on taking me on. What most don’t understand is I was very naive. I will change the world. I was still the homeless guy, still messed up and bewildered by it all. Going out there like a poodle, barking like a pit bull.
I say “I always feel like people are watching me” – that is how I felt. I would sit in the office way past 10pm doing online courses
just to avoid people. And arrive just before six in the morning. I would wear wigs and shades. I even went blond.
One never knew I felt bitterly alone, and in this I relapsed. Got caught and spent a week in jail. Never got over it. End of 2018 my health went downhill. Then my gall bladder collapsed. I had two ops to fix it.
Then they discover a growth, on top of it all, on my pancreas. I am 17kg underweight. I look at myself in the mirror and I really don’t know this person looking back at me.
What made me bitterly sad was that some people never bothered to come visit me in hospital. Not even a phone call. I guess my expectations were way too high.
* Danny Oosthuizen is the ambassador of #TheDignityProject. In his weekly 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.