Authorities urge to help street dwellers amid upsurge of COVID-19 cases

Published April 22, 2021, 6:50 PM

by Chito Chavez

Next to the frontliners, the homeless people living on the streets are the ones most probably exposed to the coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19).

Without any roof above their heads to shield them from the cold nights and scorching heat of the sun, the street dwellers make do with their wooden carts that serve as their dwelling places.

In some cases, a small place under the bridge or a shaded area in the center island or the pedestrian lanes alongside the road would do. 

Such is the case of the family of street drifter “Nardo Talisay’’ who preferred only to be known by his “alias’’ when interviewed Wednesday afternoon, April 21.

Leaving his wife and two children in a wooden cart in a Quezon City street, Talisay’s only wish is for a good weather condition while on his way to work. During the interview, the sky started to turn cloudy.

Talisay claimed to have worked as a laborer for a construction company but his family fell on hard times when the firm closed shop due to the coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

“Walang mga project may COVID kaya nganga (no income) (There are no projects due to COVID that is why we have nothing) 
Despite his family’s uncompromising situation, Talisay remained hopeful that the situation would get better but at the same time was unsure how things will turn out in the coming days or how soon can people live their normal lives.

“Salamat sa community pantry sa Maginhawa (Maginhawa Community Pantry) kumakain kami ng pamilya ko kahit paano. Sobrang laging tulong nito (community pantry) (Thanks to the community pantry, my family gets the chance to eat. This is a big help),’’ Talisay said.

As he walked the stretch of Maginhawa Street carrying his plastic bag of vegetables, Talisay confided that more than the pangs of hunger, public ridicule has hurt his family and made their ordeal extra difficult.

“Masakit na salita ay may COVID yan. Ang baho naman. Mga salitang bumabaon sa puso (Hurtful words like they have COVID. They stink. Words that pierced through the heart),’’ he added. 

After handing him a couple of hundred bills, Talisay hastily left and shouted “maraming salamat bossing (thank you very much boss)’’ as roving barangay tanods (village security personnel) were coming nearby to make their rounds.
In a text message, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año vowed to take action and resolve the concern.

“We’ll inform and require the LGU (Quezon City government) to take appropriate actions ASAP ( as soon as possible),’’ Año said.

A half an hour later in the stretch of Kamias Road Extension in Barangay East Kamias several groups of mendicants were chatting with no face masks and face shields while others were cooking dinner using chopped firewood.

Several children were also playing on the sidewalk and roadway unmindful of the speeding vehicles.

As I passed by, one of the men offered me food and in a jest claimed to be the richest man in the country with his vast property pointing to the road earning huge laughter from his peers.

When asked if they do not fear COVID 19, the man shrugged his shoulders and said “bahala na ang Diyos (It is up to God)’’.

Instead of buying face masks and face shields, the group said that they would rather spend for other essentials like food and toiletries.

One of them added that they would not catch COVID-19 as their immune system has been strengthened by their long exposure to the environment.