I have a new friend. Her name is Eurica.
Eurica has been homeless for a nearly ten years, she says. She has two children cared for by a step-mother, one in his early twenties, tempted by the gangs in neighbourhood. As with all homeless whose stories I have received, she has family near-by, an aunt with a proper house in the next town Kalk Bay.
Eurica no longer sells her body. She is a ‘car-park girl’, making roughly $1.35 a day (500 SAR per month) helping people find parking, and then protecting their cars while they eat at local restaurants. She sleeps in the mountains, a half hour walk from the beach. The local law enforcement are encouraged to rob the homeless of what little they have, taking blankets, tents, beds–everything as a kind of punishment for sleeping on public land, on the mountain or beneath the train bridge.
She speaks of losing hope. She tries to remain humble. She feels her prayers to God are unanswered, that somehow, she it not trying hard enough for him to acknowledge. I am carefully guiding her to consider how she can better use her time, to learn skills and improve her English rather than read the Bible over and over again. She calls me Master, which I despise. It is a common saying here, I assume left-over from apartheid.
Tonight, I did her laundry. I washed, dried, and folded her white jeans with sparkles sewn into the pocket linings, her tank tops and jumpers. Her pajamas have pink hearts and the words “love” and “chocolate” printed over and over again. The washing machine was filled with grass and twigs when done. I delivered them back to her, warm, in a plastic bag with a roll of toilet paper, soap, and cotton swabs.
This was perhaps the single most important thing I have done since my arrival on this continent. Through that intimate interaction, through my serving her in that way, I was forced to realise that she is like all other women I know–wanting to feel feminine, wanting soft, comfortable clothes. Even as she sleeps in the open, on the mountain, she desires to be … human.