Feature

Homeless By Choice: Busy City Streets By Day Turn To Sleeping Ground At Night

Suva Street in Toorak, Amy Street, Knolly Street, Renwick Road, Waimanu Road and Raojibhai Patel Street are just some places where the homeless congregate to settle for the night.
19 Feb 2020 10:46
Homeless By Choice: Busy City Streets By Day Turn To Sleeping Ground At Night
Homeless people sleeping on the streets of Suva on February 17, 2020. Photos: Shalveen Chand

By day, these are busy streets of Suva, but by night some become a shelter for the increasing number of homeless in the Capital City.

Mahendra Bali has been living on the streets for some years now and despite having a family, he chooses to remain on the streets.

There are many like Mr Bali, who are homeless by choice and their numbers are increasing.

Suva Street in Toorak, Amy Street, Knolly Street, Renwick Road, Waimanu Road and Raojibhai Patel Street are just some places where the homeless congregate to settle for the night.

Homeless people is a long ongoing issue, according to the Director of Social Welfare, Rupeni Fatiaki.

“It is very interesting to note that there are different types of people on the streets,” he said.

“We have done our own profiling and have come across different categories.

“These are people who have homes but choose to stay in the streets. The home environment is not conducive and they do not feel loved or accepted by their families.

“They find themselves more comfortable on the streets.”

Homeless people sleeping on the streets of Suva on February 17, 2020. Photos: Shalveen Chand

Homeless people sleeping on the streets of Suva on February 17, 2020.
Photos: Shalveen Chand

He said their families when interviewed said: “We do not chase them, they prefer to stay in the streets.”

The ministry found that some homeless people suffered mental challenges while others are elderly citizens.

“We work with other organisations to help them, including St Vincent De Paul and the HART Homes,” he said.

“Unfortunately, we cannot hold them in old people’s home. They stay there for three to four days, then they are out.

“We cannot stop them. It is a challenge not only for the ministry if we want to try and address it.

“There is a holistic approach to it, there are a lot of stakeholders there, the Police, Ministry of Health and business houses.

“We have a lot of complaints from the business houses; they sit in front of the business houses and disrupt the business.”

Homeless people sleeping on the streets of Suva on February 17, 2020. Photos: Shalveen Chand

Homeless people sleeping on the streets of Suva on February 17, 2020.
Photos: Shalveen Chand

Those dubbed street people are provided free food almost every day by religious and charity organisations.

Every morning, a large number of homeless people can be seen sitting at Ratu Sukuna Park with their bags. When approached, many have said they would prefer to be on the streets than go to their villages.

Business houses said they had offered employment to some, but many have grown prone to the handout. The Ministry of Social Welfare, Police, Suva City Council and charity organisations are doing the best they can to address the problem.

Edited by Percy Kean

Feedbackshalveen.chand@fijisun.com.fj

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