Have you ever wondered how a homeless person becomes homeless? Do you have this preconceived notion that all homeless are on drugs and that the charity you give them will be for their drug use? That they will sell the sandwich you give them in order to support their drug habit? Did you know that the shelters work on a rotational basis and that’s why there are so many homeless sleeping in the CBD and surrounds?
Have you ever had a conversation with a homeless person? The Dignity Project
Anyway, few months ago, someone shared a post on Facebook about a group that took some homeless up Lions Head. I immediately signed up for their next hike! It was to be last week but alas, the organisers could only trace 2 of the homeless that signed up for the hike. Also, it was raining.
The hike was postponed to Saturday and as it is very cold in the morning, it’s understandable that only 4 of homeless was keen to join J Sarah wanted more so went to the traffic lights on search of willing bodies to join our outreach hike.
14 of us met at Newlands Forest Car Park and quick introductions are made, short brief and sandwiches are handed out. As Oliver was carrying everything in his backpack, those of us with backpacks, lightened his load a bit. As I knew the route, Oliver made me the hike leader even though I offered to sweep hehe.
I confirmed the route we were taking and checked in with Mountain Tracking & Safety at 10am with an ETA of 1pm. We even had a couple from a foreign country but could not place their accents.
We make our way up the path and point out where the Fire Base is. Also where the yellow helicopters ‘park’? If that’s what you call it lol. And of course compulsory group photos at the sign board. Some opted to go to the lavatory first and up we go.
I don’t know the pace of the group and make sure that I am not going too fast and ask if I’m going too fast and everyone is satisfied with the pace. As I am leading, I can’t chat with everyone but do overhear some conversations and pick up litter here and there. To the point that someone asked me what I was picking up hehe.
The sound of gushing water was absolute bliss! A sound I haven’t heard in quite a while. I wanted to take group photos at the bridge but it was cordoned off…I wonder why.
Anyway, further up we go and regroup when need be. I wanted to take a pic of a huge mushroom/toadstool (I still can’t tell which is which on the mountain lol) and see a discarded plastic bottle as well. As I’m reaching down I slipped and I fell flat on my bottom! Soft landing thanks to fallen leaves hehe.
Even further up and have a snack break just prior to the Contour Path and this is when Caroline decided that she’s had enough. She’s not going one step further. Even after I told her that we just have one more ‘flight of steps’ to go and then its flat all the way to the Carousel. Nope! There was no convincing her otherwise. Sarah decided to turn back with her. As hike leader, I felt that I should be the one turning back but this is not my hike and I’m responsible for the rest of the group. From there, it’s pretty straight forward until the Carousel but getting back will be the issue and they didn’t know the route. Told Sarah to follow the path back from where we came and if she’s unsure, ask anyone on the route the way back to the cars.
Further up we go and taught them about ‘mountain side’. When people on the trail need to pass, you stand with your backs to the mountain so that your backpacks are not in the way. When need be, I cautioned everyone to step carefully where the soil is loose or the rocks were wet and slippery crossing the streams. Also explained SANPARKS and them ‘looking after’ the mountain. When the boardwalks are broken, SANPARKS must fix it.
Eventually reach the Carousel and breakfast is had. I look below and cringe at all the litter strewn about. I am to pick it up later but first it was snack time! 😀 Also, I haven’t heard from Sarah yet as I told her to let me know when she’s safely back at the cars. I sent her sms’s and whatsapp messages but the signal was crappy. Also told her to send me pics if she didn’t know which way to go and I would guide her from there.
Time to pick up the litter and we filled 2 bags! Sies! Even though I wasn’t even surprised by so much litter in the area. It’s become the norm. Informed the others that not only is litter unsightly but the animals and various other creatures snack on it not knowing that it’s toxic L
We pack up and take the shortcut down alongside the Carousel and finally heard back from Sarah. They were safely back at the cars after getting lost O_O and I let Oliver know as he phoned Sarah too. I demonstrated to the group how to bend their knees hiking down as to not feel the strain and we take a short break at the stream.
I wanted to take the path back via the Pine Forest but I told Sarah we would be back at the cars by 12:30pm and as we took short photo breaks, there was no time for a short detour. I then also saw why the bridge was cordoned off. The railing is broken!
During my 2.5 hour hike with these guys, I learnt that they are trying to get out of their situation. They put themselves through night school in order to finish Matric or higher qualification. Even hip hop tracks, trying to break into the Arts industry. I learnt that they cannot return to their homes as the situation is unbearable with alcoholic abusive family members. That caring family members pass and become homeless when the step family has no interest in you. I learnt that there are too many NGO’s in it for the money or their egos and as a result are abrasive with the homeless. I learnt that the charity we give them, goes towards their education or medication or laundromats to wash their belongings. I learnt that one of them has a blog herself and was going to write about this hike and not to litter J and that she even does beach clean-ups herself.
Granted, that not all homeless has the best of intentions. Some of them are drug addicts. Some of them find that living on the streets bring them a steady income and don’t feel the need to uplift themselves. So how can we tell the ‘good’ from the ‘bad’? Have a conversation with them.
If you want to help out or even just read what Street Sleeper is all about, please visit Street Sleeper
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to join you guys on this initiative and hope to join on several more hikes 🙂
Until my next mountain adventure, ciao for now and thank you for reading J