Homeless people to help shape nation’s agenda

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Albertina Nakale

WINDHOEK – In an attempt to tackle h ome l e s s n e s s in Namibia, the National Council has launched
a first ‘Homeless People’s Parliament’ session where these vulnerable members of society will debate and help
shape the national agenda. Although there is a lack of statistics on the number of homeless people in Namibia,
they are a regular presence on the streets and central business districts where they beg for money and food or are
perusing garbage bins.

To assist them, the National Council – Namibia’s upper house of parliament – decided to bring them on board and get
to hear from those who have experienced homelessness “rsthand. Na t i o n a l C o u n c i l cha i r pe r s on Ma rg a re t Mensah-Williams during the launch recently said the voice of the homeless to the public through a national platform that is parliament would help map their key priorities.

As such, 31 women and men gathered recently in the National Council chambers as ambassadors for homeless
people for a one-day modelparliament session to help give homeless people through parliament – the “rst such
session in the country’s history.

Mensah-Williams said the immediate tangible outcome of their session will be a report that will be tabled in the
National Council for debate during the next sitting in July. The theme for this year’s session is “Voice of the
Voiceless. Dignity Restored”. Mensah-Williams said the session formed part of her long-term efforts towards
raising awareness about who homeless people are, “first, dispelling myths and stereotypes of homelessness
that remain all too prevalent in society today.

Forme r Fi r s t L ady Penehupifo Pohamba, who was a guest of honour, said the proliferation of homeless
people is evident everywhere in the world and Namibia was no exception. “Every day we see homeless
people struggling for survival in parks, and on streets, most especially in and around the business districts,’’ she observed.

In Windhoek, she explained, they are more prominent in the city business district, in old and abandoned
buildings, under the bridges and in and around informal settlements. According to Pohamba, a former nurse, 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.

“Not having a decent home adversely affects all areas of your life. Without a home, how do you cook a healthy
meal? How do you find and keep a job without a fixed address? How do you keep your kids in school if you
have become a vagabond, moving aimlessly from place to place every day? Where do the children do homework if
the whole family is living in a ghetto or a riverbed?” she queried.

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