When 52-year-old Allan Roy Adams left Cape Town for Namibia about two months ago he thought he would ‘serve’ his country of birth while restarting a new life as a train driver with a regular monthly income.
Instead, he fell on hard times and discovered the grass is not greener in Namibia as he was made to believe.
Luck was not on Adams’ side since he arrived in Namibia, where he spent most of his childhood before relocating to Cape Town.
Adams’ stay in Windhoek for the past two months has not been easy, and the gentleman who once lived a good life is the mockery of some, with endless stares and questions such as “what is a white man doing on the streets?”
Adams, who cuts a pitiful, forlorn figure, currently relies on handouts from strangers and odd jobs to make it through the day. This week he candidly related his story of misery, destitution, loneliness and irregular meals.
“I am not doing that well,” he responded just after dark when we visited him on Wednesday night. As we conducted the interview, a few people interrupted to give him money ranging from N$10 to N$50.
“It’s been very tough staying here. But I must say honestly if it weren’t for the black people I would have committed suicide. It’s the black people that stole my stuff but they are also now helping me,” he says, relating that a briefcase containing essential documents such as his South African passport and identity documents were stolen at Zoo Park, while he was having a snack.
The South African High Commission in Windhoek has been unhelpful and the police doubt if in the first place he ever possessed a passport, he narrated.
Adams’ first wife and three children all perished in the 1980s. He thereafter married twice but he has since divorced.
Adams left two daughters and an adopted son in South Africa that he fondly speaks of. “One thing I am slipping up on is child support,” a disturbed Adams said. He says he is hardworking.
He said that he was an experienced train driver who earned R32 000 (N$32 000) a month before his spectacular fall into the ranks of millions of other unemployed people.
When he embarked on his journey to Windhoek, Adams said, he had enough money to sustain his stay here while looking for a job as a train driver, possibly with TransNamib.
But, because he could no longer afford to stay in a guest house, where he paid N$300 daily, he had to live on the streets. Adams maintains he has money in his South African account that he cannot access.
“When that guy stole that bag he stole my personality,” said Adams, who time and again let loose a few swear words to ease his frustration.
He tries hard to convince us that he is not on the streets to beg. But despite his insistence the contrary seems true, as a female sympathizer stops to get a little information about him before handing him a small note, which he gleefully accepts.
After the interruption, the conversation continued and he explained that the 19th of November is D-day for him to know if he will be recruited for a job he has been promised.
“I am just waiting for the 19th of November to see if I will get the job. In the meantime I’m relying on the people who pass by here, or a day’s work. For a day’s work I earn about N$130 or N$150 but it’s mostly N$150,” he says.
Adams also hands out his curriculum vitae at various institutions and offices with hopes that he will secure a job. But that just not come easy.
“Jislaaiket (gee whiz), do you know how much it costs to make all those copies. I just want a job, I am not begging. Some people even told my daughter on Facebook that I am begging. But I am not begging, I just want a job. I don’t want to go back to South Africa,” he emphasises, before taking out a cigarrete to smoke. Cigarettes are a priority for Adams who started smoking at the age of 12 as the nicotine in the cigarettes in a way keeps him going.
“I first buy me some beer, cigarettes and then food. I used to smoke two packets of cigarettes a day but now I’m down to one packet a week. I go to Shoprite and buy myself a loaf of bread with butter and jam. And if I have some bucks left I buy a hotdog,” he says.
Adams sleeps on cardboard under a building, which he prefers to not mention for his own safety. “I just wear my clothes and I sleep,” he says when asked if he has blankets to cover himself during the cold nights. Dressed in a black wrinkled T-shirt, blue denim trousers, a brown belt and barefoot, Adams yearns for a shower, saying he has not had one in days.
New Era contacted one of Adams’ daughters, Shera-Lynn Adams, yesterday. “I’d like to buy him a ticket to come back home,” said Shera-Lynn who also enquired for more information regarding the state of her father. She explained that the family in Cape Town lost contact with him when he stopped communicating with them in October.
“He does not have family in Windhoek but he went there to drive trains,” explained Shera-Lynn. His ex-wife, Erica Adams, said the last time they heard from (Allan Roy) Adams was on October 5.
“We have been desperately trying to get hold of him,” she explained.
But that has been unsuccessful as they did not know where to contact him. “We heard he is like a homeless person in Katutura and so we were gathering numbers of police stations in Windhoek to enquire about him,” explained Erica.
Asked on the emotional and psychological state of Adams, Erica said that “he used to drink quite a bit and that could have an effect on him”.
Clinical psychologist Dr Joab Mudzanapabwe says homelessness is dehumanizing and can have psychological impacts on people. He added that there is so much stigma attached to homelessness because “the things we see as homeless are animals and it creates the connotation of them (the homeless) being less human than others”.
As a result the behaviour of homeless people also changes to suit the environment, he added. In addition, Mudzanapabwe admits that it is quite rare to see homeless people from the white race as they are generally believed to be well off compared to the black race.
Therefore, stigma for white homeless people might be more impactful compared to black people. In most cases, white homeless people are normally not from the area where they roam around without a roof over their heads, explained the clinical psychologist further.
“It is quite rare in Windhoek to find homeless people from the white race because his (Adams’) community are better off in terms of safety nets,” explained Mudzanapabwe. He also cautioned that people should look at the root causes of homelessness, adding that some homeless people are well educated and end up on the streets because of uncontrolled addictions such as substance abuse, among others.