Letter to the Editor
A couple of years ago when my wife and I were in Seattle (USA), we were astonished to see dozens of homeless people gathered at the foot of a tall monument.
It was at around 18 hrs. Young and old, men and women were all singing songs in chorus to idle away their time until they fell asleep. Yet the USA is supposed to possess huge natural resources and is the largest economy of the world. What a paradox! If the government of USA is unable to provide a lodging to its people, how can Mauritius afford to do so?
Here we see families squatting, some sleeping under shop verandas and in derelict buildings. The government is putting in a lot of effort to build a number of houses every year, but I wonder if this problem will ever be solved. Why so? Some people spend their money on drugs and alcohol, others on horse betting and other games of chance. Some simply overspend and never save for the future, with no sense of responsibility for self, let alone for others. We still remember the case of a squatter who was proudly parading his Canal Plus satellite dish on the roof of his shack in the west of the country. Some people blame everyone and everything but themselves. Some spend more time planning a party or vacation than planning their lives.
Government has come forward, through the CSR, to provide two-roomed houses to homeless families – that is a basic foundation on which they can extend and upgrade later. Their participation in this project is essential so as to avoid being labelled ‘des assistés’. But, a few weeks ago, we were surprised to hear a religious man voicing his discontent about this issue of homelessness and stating that families with 3 or 4 children should be given appropriate houses to accommodate their large families.
One Saturday morning, two ladies knocked at my door. They were going round begging for money. I queried them about their circumstances, and one of the two said: “Mo missié malade… pas travail, nous reste dans locataire, mo éna 4 enfants, nous misère…” I told the lady, “Madam, your ailing husband does not work, you have no house of your own, you have no fixed income, how come you have four children?” “Bondié donné, missié,” she hastily replied.
Do you see that line of reasoning? They want the government and the NGOs to provide them with houses that can accommodate father, mother and their god-given children. And they receive the blessings of a religious man. The Bishop of Mauritius, however, does not condone this practice. He encourages people to stand on their feet instead of perpetuating a culture of dependency. You cannot expect something to fall into your lap without doing any effort. Donors’ generosity is wearing out these days because they seem to be going through bad times
Bravo, Bishop Ian Ernest! We need more patriotic people like you to help bring back some sanity in our public life.