If you read my past two columns, you will be aware that I have been taking you on my journey to my very first night sleeping rough on the streets of Cape Town.
I started walking from the Parade at about 7pm as I was feeling very uncomfortable with the attention my bag of clothes was receiving from other homeless people and I didn’t know the area well enough at night to find a place to sleep.
I had decided to walk to Sea Point where I had lived and felt more comfortable about finding a place to crash for the night.
But let me tell you that thinking you know Sea Point because you happened to have owned a place in Selbourne Place and knowing that same place on the streets at night are two very different things.
On my way, I met a guy who was being really nice to me and seemed interested in my story, which I shared with him on the way and he suggested I come and sleep where he and two friends slept just off Beach Road.
On the way we had met a number of other less friendly characters who would take him aside and I could see and hear that they did not agree with him chaperoning me.
He explained to me he is a “28” and what his role is and that I must not worry. While I am with him, I would be safe.
We got to the spot where he and a friend stayed and he said that I should make myself comfortable and cover myself as he had things to do. If anyone came and bothered me, I was just to mention that Shaun had given me permission to lie there.
He gave me a cover sheet as it had started drizzling. I immediately lay down and was soon fast asleep. Next thing I knew, someone came along pushing a bike followed by a police officer. He kicked at my feet and said: “Just tell the cop this is your bike, they’re giving me grief about it.”
The officer now talking directly to me asked me my name and whether this was my bike. I said, no, it wasn’t my bike and I didn’t know the guy either. To say I had just made my first enemy on the streets based on the look on his face when the police officer told him to bring the bike along with him would be an understatement.
Shaun hadn’t been back and I wasn’t exactly comfortable staying there. It was drizzling and so I took my bag and the cover sheet I had been given and started walking down to the beachfront.
I decided go and lie between two of the mobile stores adjacent to the swimming pool.
I spread out my clothes bag so that I could use it as a mattress and the clothes safe and pulled the cover sheet over me. I closed my eyes but sleep wouldn’t come.
Every now and again, someone would be lifting up the sheet and feeling inside. I remained dead still.
At about 4am, light was beginning to shine through. I was hungry and wet and miserable, but for the first time in my life I went onto the beach, went down on my knees and thanked God for my breath of life that morning.
I then walked along the beach until I reached the road where I knew Shaun slept.
He was lying there fast asleep. I sat and waited for him to wake up. When he awoke he seemed shocked to see me: “What happened to you?” he asked. I told him about what had happened last night. “S**t,” he said, “what the hell did he get up to again?
“I will go to the station to take him some cigarettes. Wait here.” And that was my first night sleeping rough on the streets in Sea Point. I would be sleeping rough for close on six years.
* Carlos Mesquita.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.
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