"In 2018, we had many changes in our own communities. I also had my own. I had a change in perception about certain people who deal with the homeless," writes Danny Oosthuizen. Picture: Bongani Shilubane/African News Agency (ANA)
During the past year, we had many changes in our City and in our own communities. I also had my own. I had a change in perception about certain people who deal with the homeless.

One must be very careful and not always believe the hype. When one deals with people’s problems, there is no blanket solution.

The challenge is to handle each situation individually. But because of the sheer volume of cases, solutions cannot always be found.

And despite the best intentions, some people are just not ready to change their habits.

It can be very frustrating at times, but you have to meet the person at the level he or she is at.

Forced change is never the answer. We homeless are exposed to a high level of violence, abuse, exploitation and negative environmental exposure. And yet, most of us seem to be coping.

The streets made me a hard, ugly person, at times very unreasonable, aggressive and a loner. Even my language at times was not acceptable in general decent conversations.

You have to bluff at times, pretend you are this bad-ass guy so that people think twice about looking for trouble with you.

When you literally sit on the pavement, the view of the world is different. You see unhappy, tired, stressed-out human beings chasing after worldly possessions. We lost what life was supposed to be like. We barely love ourselves, let alone others.

Self-love can be perceived as being conceited. Your kids hit straight A’s during the exams, but they must be modest about it. You finally got that promotion you should have had seven years ago. Stay humble.

It is almost embarrassing when you get complimented on your hard work and achievements. When one does good, it is almost swept under the carpet. When you mess it up, you never hear the end of the story.

And when you become untouchable in your work conduct, people will zoom in on your private life to find a flaw or two.

I had to hear stories about myself that made me very frustrated and sad. I even died a couple of times, according to the gossip.

I now have a job and “I think I am better than the rest”. You know what? Maybe I am. Because I worked hard and put in long hours to become familiar with what I did.

Remember, I never did this before. Never wrote anything for others to read. My spelling was very bad and I thank spell check for fixing it. While I tried to better myself, at the same time dealing with life on both sides, others perceived me as arrogant, unreachable and distant.

I could not stay up as late at night as I use to - reason being, I had to work in the morning. I lost touch with many out there and I did not connect socially with the “real” world.

“No man’s land” is a lonely place. Change, choice, perseverance: these words represent what 2018 was for me.

* 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.

Cape Argus