Biting the Hand That Feeds?

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By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK A group of sex workers from the Stand Together Organisation in Katutura are up in arms against their caretaker Father Herman Klein Hitpass. The group allegedly stole food from the shelter and now face a three-month ban without assistance. After a recent donation of N$85 000 from Government, the sex workers demanded an increase in their weekly rations as well as some cash benefits. They also said that the priest was presently enjoying full nutritious meals while they have to contend with fish and maize rations. The priest however told New Era that he wants to help the people as far as he can, but if their demands are met the food will run out quickly. This would mean that close to 100 people will face a bleak future unless someone steps in to assist them. When New Era visited the angry sex workers at the shelter recently, some of them expressed dissatisfaction with the way the donated money was being used, after claims that they do not receive that much from the food rations and second-hand clothing. “The food is not enough for me and my children at all. What happened to the N$85 000? Father is just using us to get money,” shouted one sex worker throwing her arms in the air. Echoing the sentiment Maria Boois said the priest never shows them how he uses the money and some have to even beg him for assistance. “People work here, but they don’t get paid at all and we demand our money back,” said another. It appears that out of desperation, some of the sex workers stole half a box of tinned fish from the shelter and were caught red-handed by the priest. Confessing to the crime Scholastica /Goagoses said she committed the deed because her children were starving. However, stealing is a criminal offence and since this was not the first time that some of the sex workers had engaged in stealing, Father Hitpass deemed it necessary not to provide them with rations for the next three months. “If you steal, I will stop you,” said the priest during a heated row outside the shelter situated in Clemens Kapuuo Street in Katutura. Locking out the disgruntled group of sex workers, Father Hitpass showed New Era the various food parcels and donated items stored inside the shelter. Packed on shelves were maizemeal, sugar, toilet paper, blankets, jungle oats, tea, milk, condoms and many other basic commodities. Father Hitpass noted that he was trying his level best to distribute these items fairly amongst the affected sex workers. “I saw them stealing with my own eyes and this is not the first time they are stealing,” said the priest, adding that out of the N$85 000 donated by the Ministry of Health and Social Services, N$40 000 has been used for everyday upkeep and food parcels, while the remaining N$45 000 is still in the bank. After receiving the donation early this year, Father Hitpass will provide a detailed account of how the finances were utilised in September this year. On the other hand, it seems only a certain number of the needy sex workers are now up in arms against the priest over how he runs the shelter, while the vast majority support the kind gestures the father has made to help them move away from the desperate lifestyle of selling their bodies on the streets. “Father has helped me so much including my children, I would still be out on the street if it was not for Father,” said Beverly April, who has known him for the past five years. Expressing sincere gratitude to the Catholic priest for his tireless efforts to take them off the streets, some were content with the way the food was distributed, saying that is how it should be done so that everyone gets something without the food running out quickly. Another concern raised by the priest is that there have been several break-ins in the house where the food rations are kept. “Look, I’ve even put in burglar bars from inside and outside because people steal,” said the man of the cloth while pointing to a gaping hole in the ceiling where the recent break-in occurred. Most of the disgruntled sex workers have known Father Hitpass since he started helping them in Katutura more than 10 years ago.