Rough life for city’s home­less

But through the pain are sto­ries of courage and hope

Daily Dispatch - - News - By BAR­BARA HOLLANDS

DUR­ING the day he scav­enges through East Lon­don’s garbage piles, eyes peeled for dis­carded elec­tri­cal parts he can use to fix ap­pli­ances.

At night he scram­bles up a tree, hun­kers down in a plas­tic-lined nest, straps him­self in and goes to sleep.

This is the life of Adam Waweru, 52, a tall Kenyan who left his wife and chil­dren be­hind in his home coun­try and headed to South Africa 13 years ago in search of a bet­ter fu­ture.

In­stead he washed up in home­less shel­ters in Dur­ban and Cape Town where he some­how man­aged to train as an elec­tri­cian.

Waweru is one of count­less home­less peo­ple who have landed up on the streets of East Lon­don. Only, when he tried to sleep on the street he was blud­geoned on the head with a stone for his shoes.

When the Satur­day Dis­patch spot­ted Waweru, he was walk­ing slowly, head bowed, stoop­ing ev­ery now and then to in­spect small parts strewn in the refuse across the road from the belt of Pat­ter­son Street’s panel-beat­ing work­shops.

In­di­cat­ing a hand­ful of wash­ers and spark plugs, Waweru said he had been tasked with fix­ing a tap in a city cen­tre hair­dress­ing shop.

“I can fix fridges, mi­crowaves, TVs and wash­ing ma­chines in five min­utes and so I go to shops and fix stuff for them,” said Waweru.

“But peo­ple don’t want to pay. If I ask for R300 they give me R100. Then I go and buy vetkoek and polony to eat and cooldrink I mix with wa­ter, but some­times I don’t eat for three or four days be­cause work is hard to find. I am not one to drink [al­co­hol] or fol­low women.”

Nor has he buck­led and sur­ren­dered to a life of crime.

“I have been in South Africa for 13 years and have never been in trou­ble with the po­lice or gone to jail.”

When he first moved to East Lon­don a year ago he slept on a grassy strip across the road from the Ori­ent Pool Com­plex, but con­structed a tree­house af­ter he was at­tacked.

From the road it is im­pos­si­ble to spot his nest. He has tucked it up in a tan­gle of dense branches, and when he gets home at 6pm daily he climbs deftly up the tree and tucks him­self into his lofty home.

Giv­ing the Dis­patch an impromptu demon­stra­tion, Waweru curled up in his dwelling, cov­ered him­self with a length of plas­tic and showed us pieces of plas­tic strap­ping he uses to se­cure him­self in the branches for the night.

“My blan­ket was stolen so I don’t have one now. I wash in the sea and go to a restau­rant for the toi­let be­cause I don’t like to mess here. I have to live like this be­cause East Lon­don has no shel­ter. All I want is work.”

Slumped against a wall near the West Bank post of­fice, feed­ing peanuts to wag­tails, was Craig Lockem. Bearded, woolly-haired, long-nailed and wear­ing three jackets, Lockem, 47, was once a Quigney hair­dresser.

Now he lives rough, sleep­ing in a small park near the church in the sea­side sub­urb. “I can’t com­plain. It’s not like I’m go­ing to die.”

Lockem, who said he grew up in the sub­urb, did his na­tional ser­vice in Gra­ham­stown.

“Then I heard [hair­styl­ist] Nel­son

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