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‘We slept on cardboard boxes’

“We were super thirsty and hungry with a state of disbelief over what just happened . . . We slept at Wernhil for several days.”

These are the words of Ntema Tapiso as he recalls the days after he and his wife were evicted from the guest house they had been staying at.

The couple was evicted due to outstanding payments after moving back to Windhoek from the Zambezi region.

“The guest house we stayed at evicted us on 25 October for a certain amount we were to pay on 28 October 2022.

“We got evicted . . . hours became days, and days turned into months with only the clothes on our bodies,” Tapiso says.

He says during their stay they made repayment arrangements twice before being evicted. The guest house refused to hand over their belongings until they paid the full amount they owed, Tapiso says, and they ended up sleeping at the Wernhil Park taxi rank on a cardboard box in the cold.

He says they received donations from a pastor and community members.

Clement Mushabati, a pastor and friend of the couple, says it was hard to see his longtime friends homeless.

He says he reached out to his congregation for donations.

“I think it was in October last year . . . I asked one of the church members to take them in while we figured something out,” Mushabati says.

Winnie Tapiso says before this experience, she could not have imagined what homelessness was like.

“It was not easy when we had to come and spend our night at Wernhil … I actually never thought of how women who are homeless actually take care of themselves when nature comes knocking.”

She says she started menstruating on their first night at Wernhil, without having access to sanitary products.

The homeless couple is now dreaming of opening a vocational centre aimed at catering for the homeless.

They eventually received money from community members at Katima Mulilo to retrieve their belongings from the guest house.

“Members of the community donated funds and sent them to me to pay the guest house for Ntema and his wife,” Rector Maani, a community member, says. Tapiso says he wants to change the lives of people who have fallen victim to homelessness and to restore their dignity.

“I will empower the needy via skills training,” he says.

The Tapisos currently live in a small room at Windhoek’s Damara location.

“We want to create a hub of opportunities where you don’t have to be corrupt to get a job or scholarship.

“We want the centre to be a father and uncle for those who don’t have jobs in the government or private sector,” he says.

Tapiso says they have met with Khomas governor Laura McLeod-Katjirua and the Katutura East constituency councillor in an attempt to raise funds for the establishment of a centre. “We will start with them to donate, and we will walk from town to town creating awareness, starting from the east at Gobabis to Windhoek,” Tapiso says. He says the centre would reduce social ills and reduce dependency on the government.