Homelessness,Bottled Water, Drama!

Feb 26 , 2022
By Kidist Yidnekachew

It is hard to ignore the rising number of homeless children on the streets of Addis Abeba. They are often running around begging for someone to buy them bread. It feels bad when we cannot give them anything. It is an indictment on our society that we cannot address the crisis of children going hungry.

For the most part, we tend to ignore them or perceive them as threats that could steal. I have seen some trying to steal. A passenger sitting by an open window in a taxi is a prime target. One time, a small boy attempted to grab this lady’s bag and run. It is unfortunate that they have been dragged into crime at such a young age. It is more heartbreaking to see them smoke and sniff glue to keep warm.

These days, more of them are asking for a bottle of water and, oftentimes, people oblige them.

Sometimes, I give them a bottle of water. Other times I do not. This is because I need to take a bottle of water to work. Since my bag is too small to fit a container for a litre of water, I need to hold it in my hands when I commute. I also get thirsty walking in the sun; I am one of those people who cannot walk a mile without sipping water. Making matters worse, there may not be a kiosk nearby to buy bottled water if I give up the one I bring with me.

Thus, when children or youth on the streets ask me to give them water, I tell them that I need it. I feel bad, but I do not have a choice. I prefer to give them change if I have it.

“Really, you can’t give us that,” is the look they often throw back at me.

I try not to look at them; if I do, I will end up giving them my bottled water out of guilt. But sometimes, the exchange turns into something else. The other day a woman who is probably in her late twenties asked me to give her my bottle of water. I refused as politely as possible, but she insulted me. It was rude and inappropriate.

She felt that I was being mean. It was not true. Looking after one’s self and interests is not being mean. Had I had another bottle of water or were there a kiosk nearby, I would have given it to her, but there was not. It was not stinginess but pragmatism on my part.

Most people who help the less fortunate do it discretely. I would not use the word “help” in my case but I used to give change to homeless people on the streets before I learned some of them do not need it to buy meals but are either too lazy to work or have a substance addiction. Also, some make it look like it is an obligation to give them cash, insulting those that pass them by without giving them change. They do not consider that others could also be facing financial problems because the clothes on their back are not torn or dirty. Everybody has their own battles; some less than others but they are still battles.

It is not debatable that giving change to homeless people will not lift them out of poverty. There needs to be a more concerted effort to provide social welfare, especially in the areas of education, healthcare and housing. Giving them change can provide temporary relief but it will take a village to ensure that they are permanently off the streets.

PUBLISHED ON Feb 26,2022 [ VOL 22 , NO 1139]

Kidist Yidnekachew is interested in art, human nature and behaviour. She has studied psychology, journalism and communications and can be reached at (kaymina21@gmail.com)

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