The baptisms of fire that I had to endure during this time

Carlos Mesquita. Pictures: Brendan Magaar/African News Agency(ANA)

Carlos Mesquita. Pictures: Brendan Magaar/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Nov 4, 2023


Last week, I started looking back on my three-year journey of writing this column by focusing mostly on the things that we have managed to impact on and that have changed for the better for those living on the streets of Cape Town.

There have been many achievements that were either initiated, inspired or motivated by my columns and I thank God for the opportunity and privilege to continue using this vessel for the good of those living on the streets and as a vessel to inform the general public of the reality of this experience.

But all is not well and all is not how it seems in the sector of homelessness. This column has been instrumental in discovering and revealing a great deal of the ugliness that lurks just beneath the surface of the “assistance” being funded and offered to those experiencing homelessness.

Having come out of homelessness and drug addiction and having declared all of this to the world up front, has been liberating and empowering but has not always worked out in my favour.

In fact, most of us who came out of homelessness after leaving Strandfontein have had to face the harsh reality that not many in society are prepared to assist us in regaining a sense of belonging no matter how hard we work at creating our own best version of ourselves.

It’s as if we are forever judged as a more risky investment than others that have not experienced homelessness.

In fact, my having always been honest about the road I have travelled to get to this point has landed me in situations where I have come very close to being back on the streets or in jail.

In fact, it has been those people who were meant to have been closest to me, those who were meant to be looking out for me and whom I entrusted with my labour of love that have time and again caused me the most harm.

People whose own lack of sincerity, integrity and accountability have led to the destruction of an organisation and the disruption in the lives of those that the organisation was meant to be and had been assisting.

These people were quick to use the prejudice that the court of public opinion still displays in sooner believing that a person with my background would be judged the villain if up against their own perceived moral fibre.

Their desperate attempt at self-preservation almost landed me in jail and destroyed an organisation I had founded and been running successfully before their involvement.

The big losers, yet again, were those previously homeless individuals whom they had no interest in sustainably assisting.

Despite my innocence, I lost a great deal of support from people who believed the lies and couldn’t or wouldn’t see the conspiracy.

I have forgiven these individuals, I have forgiven their despicable lies, accusations and attempts to ruin my credibility and integrity.

But it’s important to mention it all again to warn others living on the streets that those who seem like benefactors are not always as committed to their well-being as they are committed to their own.

I have learnt that such offers of support are always subject to this support leading to positive outcomes for those offering the support.

During these baptisms of fire that I had to endure during this time, my three editorial superiors that I have the privilege to deal with weekly have always stuck by me and not adhered to calls to stop me from writing this column.

I thank you for your commitment and I hope that my having stood tall and soldiered on as the truth revealed itself has repaid you for your commitment to me and what I do.

* Carlos Mesquita.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Cape Argus

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