It was about 10 pm in the evening as I walked on the streets of Accra central towards Tema station in search for a Lapaz “trotro” to go home after a visit to an old friend at Kantamanto. The streets were typically quiet and quite empty, with nothing but the sound of the cold wind blowing — polythene bags and ripped papers flew freely on the streets like freed caged birds that have been longing to fly for a long time.
Hurriedly, as I continued down the road, I couldn’t help but notice a woman and her two children lying by a lotto kiosk on the sidewalk. “Are those human beings?” I thought to myself in disbelief. I had heard about these things but I have never actually witnessed it. Out of curiosity and shock, I moved closer to take a good look. I realized that there were four other young ladies probably in their late teens and a little boy of about 7 years old, sleeping under a street light on the sidewalk and another group of people sleeping in front of a shop with a gutter and heaps of rubbish around it. I was so marveled at this sight so I moved around and not in search for car this time, but to actually find out the number of people who were sleeping on the dusty sidewalk.
Many of the people I saw were mostly young women, some of them even with babies and the others were just children. What if it starts to rain….what happens to then? Where will they sleep, because then the floors will be soaked and muddy. How do they survive being exposed to such harsh weather conditions, the mosquitoes and all other harmful insects.
The security and safety of these people was a great concern as well, since majority were women and children. They are vulnerable and defenseless to attacks at any time and does anyone care? This issue is very alarming and what are we as a people doing about it? Are we only waiting on the government? What happened to that fundamental belief “I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper”? These thoughts and questions run through my mind the whole time. Does anyone care at all? Or they just pretend to?
That question reminded me of an interesting story my public relations lecturer told us in my third year. It was about a social experiment conducted to see if people really cared about the less fortunate. She narrated that in the video posted online, a man was seen parading the streets of London with a sign post “Fuck the poor” hung around his neck. He received all sorts of negative and cruel reactions from observers… a woman even threw hot coffee at him. It had reached a point where people wanted to get physical with him because they saw it as offensive and the local police had to intervene. Based on their reactions, we can tell people do care about the poor—but in the next scene, a man walks on the same street, this time with a different sign post that says “Help to the poor” and even proceeding to ask for donations but people completely ignored him as they walked by. So by this, do people really care enough to lend a helping hand or do something to solve this problem they claim to care about?
The issue of people living on the streets of Accra keeps increasing each year mostly as a result of rural – urban migration. To many people, being homeless encircles not having a house or a haven to live in. This perception might be true but only to a certain extent. Typically, the term holds many insinuations like not having a family, or friends to reside with in times of difficulty and need. Naturally, homeless people are labeled as beggars, destitute or mentally ill thus creating and widening the social and financial disparity between them and the rest of the society.
Ghanaweb revealed that there are over 100,000.00 homeless people on the streets at any given night in Ghana. Vulnerable to these harsh situations and conditions they are forced to endure, most of these young girls end up exchanging sex for protection or as a supplement for income. Even worse, they end up being victims of rape and other forms of abuses that are very dehumansing. Some even end up committing crimes to make ends meet.
Many of us are more fortunate than others by God’s grace and have never been put in a situation where we have been abandoned nor had nowhere to go, no place to sleep and nothing to eat. Should that mean we turn our backs on the struggles, hurt and illness of our brothers and sisters on the street. “1 John 3:17. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother or sister in need yet closes his heart on them, how does the love of the Lord abide in them?”
How do we alleviate this rapid growing epidemic in our country? It will interest you to know that these women and child has potentials, certain skill sets and the enthusiasm to do something that can be useful to society and the nation but what they lack is education and the means. So the question is— is there a comprehensive policy and a projected development goal plan? Is there one definite policy that tackles this menace of homelessness and safety as well as education for children, our future leaders who fall victim?
Tackling and ending homelessness in Ghana should be the responsibility of every government at any given point. This however, shouldn’t be just about getting people off the streets but also finding lasting solutions to prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place.
I strongly believe that housing is a right not a privilege but a right, therefore every Ghanaian must have the right to a safe, affordable and decent housing. The government must however, not only reduce but permanently end homelessness in Ghana as well as implementing necessary assistance programs towards improving the life of every single citizen of this great nation and not just a particular group of people. Nonetheless, the biggest way we can also help them as individuals is to say a prayer for them, that alone won’t solve their problem but God will richly bless you. “He who pity on the poor lends to the Lord and He will pay back what he has given.” Let’s lend a helping hand. They are homeless, but they are not hopeless!
God bless our Homeland Ghana!!!
Written By Paakwesi Seidu Mauro.
Student of Central University College.
Writer’s e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org