From the beginning, where possible, we have taken food and water to homeless elders living in the streets, and have also served young adults in need. It doesn’t seem like very much, but when clean drinking water is nearly impossible to find, and your stomach is empty, any little bit is appreciated.
Shortly after Nepal instituted a tax on workers a few years ago, to help support the aging population, many elders found themselves being told by their own children, “I can’t afford to feed you anymore,” or “I can’t afford to take care of you anymore.” Many of these adult children had the attitude that they were paying the government to care for their parents, so they shouldn’t have to do it anymore.
The aging population consists of elders who have very limited financial support from the government for these elders. The stipend they receive — if they’re registered to receive it — is minimal, and not enough to support an elder in a home of their own. They do not have pension plans or any type of retirement savings. Similar to others at their age, they never quite expected to live as long as they have, or expected their children to take care of them. But the children move away from the city and even into other countries for a better life. Many of those children — without shame or hesitation — put these elders out of their home. These elders find themselves out on the streets, searching for a home or a way to survive. While some find their way to elder care homes, others have no access to these homes or don’t know how to find them.
As with any aging population, many of the elders we talk to on the streets have some form of dementia or cognitive decline. Distrust of strangers and — for some reason — journalists is widespread.
As with the homeless population in the U.S., it can be hard to tell who’s homeless and who isn’t: The two young men living in the tent city don’t look homeless, but they are. They have been unable to find work for six months, so their friends (the young men in the blue jacket and the black jacket) help to support them as best as possible. The young man in the black jacket spoke for them as Alicia asked questions; the two young men who were homeless appeared too ashamed to speak to her directly.
While it isn’t in our mission to support homeless young adult males, Alicia found them in the tent city as she was out one day passing food and water to those in need. She chose to help where she could, regardless of age or gender.
As Mother Teresa said, “Never worry about the numbers. Help one person at a time, and always start with the person nearest you.”