Jubilee’s case is not an isolated one. Take Joseph Wafula, for instance. He is among the many men who sleep in line outside shops along the Ambassadeur bus stop in Nairobi. These men huddle together for warmth on the pavement. Their shoes have seen better days, but they’re not dusty. So are their trousers. Come morning and they will up and bright and ready to report to work, clean, smart and punctual.
Wafula has been living on the streets for the past four months. He is a cleaner and messenger at a law firm along Loita Street. Wafula earns Sh5,800 a month. He has four children back in the village who live with their mother.
He says he couldn’t support his children on his salary, so he married a new wife and left her in the village with his children. Wafula says he sends home Sh3,000 every month, saves Sh1,000 and since he is living on the streets, his only expense is food.
Wafula says that after he was kicked out, he had nowhere to go and spent the first night seated on the bench next to The Hilton hotel. After two nights, one of the security guards advised him to go sleep with ‘others’ at Ambassadeur, where it was safer.
“I have four shirts and two trousers. When I wake up, I go to the county bathrooms then head to work. I am lucky because at the office, we have tea and bread two times a day, so the only thing I budget for is food.”
Wafula adds that he goes to the office early to wash his shirts, which he hangs out to dry at the mezzanine floor. “There is a restaurant that washes table clothes and napkins. There is space on the mezzanine floor where I dry my shirt. By 9am, the shirt would be dry and I fold and place it in the bag I walk with.”
Wafula adds that he keeps a toothbrush and Vaseline in a small bag. He is not very comfortable with his living arrangements, but says he has fewer options since the Sh1,800 he is left with can’t pay rent or daily fare to and from work. “If I had a house in the slums, it would cost me Sh800. Transport would be Sh60 per day. But if I even walked to work every day, after rent, what is left can’t feed me. “At times, there are as many as 15 men who work in offices that sleep at our ‘place’.
Some come for a few weeks, while others have been at Ambassadeur longer,” reveals Wafula. “Actually, there are four who I hear have been there for almost one year. All of us are employed, only that we can’t afford housing and food at the same time.”
Ali, a physically challenged vendor at the Ambassadeur bus stop says he has been selling sweets and scratch cards at night, and he can afford a small room in Huruma. “These office people have been here for almost one year. Every day, a new one comes but is gone after a few weeks. Those three have been sleeping here for the longest period, almost one year,” he says pointing at three men sleeping.
Neither the police nor county askaris harass the men sleeping on the streets. Even the watchmen guarding businesses at Ambassadeur don’t bother with them. “Maisha ni magumu. Ukiona mwanaume ametandika carton chini analala, jua ameshindwa (It’s a tough life in the city. When a grown man is forced to sleep on cartons in the cold night on the streets, just know that he has hit rock bottom and there’s nothing much he can do about it),” says one guard.
He adds that he never harasses them for sleeping at his work place. In fact, he confesses that they make his work easy since they line up and sleep in front of the shop he is supposed to be guarding. “What are the chances of thieves breaking in” he poses.
He says his schedule at the office doesn’t give him time to search for another job, since he is on call anytime of the day. “I open the offices and lock them after everybody is gone. Nobody knows I live on the streets and I wouldn’t want anybody to know,” he adds.
Wafula is one of many Kenyans caught in a social and evonomic trap. They left villages to come seek fortune in the city but didn’t find the jobs they expected, it would be more worthwhile to return to the shamba they left at home but they can’t bear the shame of returning empty-handed after working many years in the city
You seem to be far from reality. These people you are saying better off are normaly from top brass in their countries and mostly beneficialies of corruption and theft from their failing countries. Go figure!!!
Situation zingine hutaka mtu ajiite kwa mkutano (reflect). Same jiji nilicheki feature ya mama huuza bananas .Alianza hawking mguu (50 bob capital) then later akagraduate to wheelbarrow sasa ako na mkokoteni next anapanga kununua nduthi. Yeye hubeba mtoi wake kwa hio mkokoteni nyuma. On good days alidai anaingiza hio 5k.