Women’s day rings hollow on the streets

Maria van Wyk, Sophia Cloete, Maria Muller and Hendrica Titus in a parking lot in Parow last week.

While many women in the city were pampered on National Women’s Day, those living on the streets were not so fortunate.

Hendrica Titus, 34, has been living on the streets of Parow for 14 years.

“I came to Cape Town from the Northern Cape, looking for a job. I worked for a family in Parow, but they did not treat me properly, so I left that job. I have been living on the streets of Parow ever since.”

Ms Titus said she had met the father of her two children while living on the streets and that they now lived on a stoep at the sports centre in Parow North.

“I have two children with him. That is why I choose to live on the streets. I don’t want to go to a night shelter. I prefer to stay outside,” she said.

Ms Titus said that as a child she had dreamt of finishing her matric, getting a job and working full-time. But life hadn’t turned out that way.

“It’s very cold at night, especially during winter. When it rains, we don’t have any dry clothes. We also don’t have mattresses and sleep on the hard ground,” she said.

Another homeless woman, Maria van Wyk, 45, was born in Parow, but she said she had ended up living on the streets after a “legal issue” had seen her separated from her child.

“I dreamt about being a good mother and wife when I was a little girl. In life, you never know what the future holds,” she said.

Many residents in Goodwood and Parow voice frustration about the number of homeless people in the area.

“A lot of these residents are judgmental,” said Ms Van Wyk.

“We have a high unemployment rate in South Africa, and it’s difficult to get a job, especially if you don’t have any qualifications. I want to tell the residents that we are trying to make a better life for ourselves.”

She complained about the abuse women and children continued to endure at the hands of men in South Africa.

“Many women are beaten and raped, and I want to tell men to treat women better,” she said.

Maria Muller, 58, is from Ceres and has been on Parow’s streets for the 29 years.

“I came by train from Ceres in the 1980s to look for a job, but things did not work out the way I wanted them to,” she said.

Ms Muller said “it’s not nice to be on the street” and would rather go to a shelter, but she could not afford to.

When the Northern News told her that, through the City’s winter readiness programme, entry into shelters was free during winter, she said she did not know about that.

“Also when I have gone to the shelters, they are always too full,” she said.

She said she would visit night shelters the following day to see if there was space for her. Asked about the significance of Women’s Month, she said: “We live on the streets. Women’s Month doesn’t really mean anything to us as our lives are not changed by it,” she said.

“I was hit by a partner. It’s not nice. I don’t really want to talk about it,” she said.