Thursday, May 24, 2018

Namibia’s Homeless Get Voice in Parliament
Southern Times
May 23,2018
By Annines Angula 

Windhoek - Lack of proper shelter, unemployment and human rights violations were the main concerns that a group of homeless Namibians raised during their special parliamentary session in the National Council Chambers last week.

A group of 31 extraordinary women and men gathered in the National Council Chambers as ambassadors for homeless people for a one-day model-parliament session, which gave homeless people a voice at the heart of Parliament for the first time in Namibia under the theme: “Voice of the Voiceless, Dignity Restored”.

During the session, the homeless expressed the anguish of being homeless and how they feel left behind by the system, and that they do not feel they form part of the Namibian House.

Former First Lady Penehupifo Pohamba, who officially launched the Homeless People’s Parliament, said it provided a unique opportunity for Namibia to examine challenges that the homeless people face.

“Homelessness is not just a housing problem and getting people off the streets. It's also about us working hard to find lasting solutions to stop people from becoming homeless in the first place; not just this generation, but future generations as well,” she stressed.

“The proliferation of homeless people is evident everywhere in the world and Namibia is no exception. Every day we see homeless people struggling for survival in parks, and on the streets, especially in and around the business districts. In Windhoek, they are more prominent in the city business district, in old and abandoned buildings, under the bridges and in and around informal settlements.

“These homeless people receive handouts from good people but a good number of them become scavengers at rubbish dumps for survival, thereby exposing themselves to different hazards, contamination and possible poisoning.”

Madam Pohamba said “it is a shame for people who have once been able and contributed to the development of the country to find themselves is such a horrible and unacceptable situation.

“These fellow Namibians should be given the opportunity to restore their lives back to normal. This is the first project ever undertaken to look at the homeless who find themselves in hopeless situations. This is the reason why we are all here today to launch this noble project.”

The Chairperson of the National Council, Margaret Mensah-Williams, said the theme of the Parliament labels the story of a group of people who were once voiceless but now have been given a chance to speak and to be listened to.

“As a result, they now feel empowered and that their dignity, once lost, has been restored,” she said.

Mensah-Williams also said that the reports of meetings of the Homeless People’s Parliament would be tabled in the National Council for consideration and later confirmed that her office has in place a plan of action through which she will render assistance to street kids and homeless people.

“By bringing their voice to the public and national platform, that is, Parliament, the whole nation will be afforded a rare opportunity to hear their key priorities, concerns and stories about what it is like to be homeless,” she said.

During the session, the homeless delegates who have made the country’s bridges, abandoned government buildings and many other unusual places their homes, blamed and accused the police, especially the Windhoek City Police, for abusing the power vested in them to abuse them.

They described how they are kicked and poured with cold water to wake them up in the middle of the night chasing them from the abandoned building, which the police claim belong to the government.

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