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Homeless Families Turn Boats Into Homes


NORMALLY, people’s residence, especially where they rest or sleep at night, is inside the house.

The house may be thatched with a thatched roof and mud walls or it may be a modern brick with a corrugated iron or thatched roof. There are also those houses that are built with galvanized walls. For those families who are not lucky in life either, you will find that when they lack official housing, they resort to beggars in slums and on the side of the road while others live in caves.

In Lamu island, the situation is different. Here, you will meet homeless families converting vessels, especially old cruise ships, into official residences. The vessels used are boats and boats. Among these families are those of drug trafficking victims known as ‘customers’, street youths (chokoraa) and also those of fishermen who often find themselves at sea carrying out their activities at night.

For example, it is common to see drug victims hanging their bedding on boats or old boats during the day where they have gone to find food and other necessities.

In the evening you will meet the families crammed into the boat, where they spend the night. There are some that you will even find cooking inside the old boats as the residents set aside a special area of ​​the boat to use as a kitchen, that is, a cooking area.

Mrs. Khadija Shebwana and Babli Shee Athman are husband and wife who were victims of drugs before they survived. In an interview with one of news paper in kenya, Ms. Shebwana explained how the big boats gave them shelter throughout the more than 15 years they were living as drug addicts.

“We are grateful that in the end we survived from the drugs, but to be honest, if it wasn’t for these big boats, I don’t know how we would have done. We used these boats as our homes at night, while during the day we organize ourselves,” said Mrs. Shebwana.

Mr Mohamed Yusuf who is a Tajik fisherman in Lamu Island thanks the owners of the big boats for understanding them and even allowing them to use them as their residence. Mr Yusuf mentions fishing as a job that allows a devotee to spend a lot of time at night in the sea fishing. He says whenever they go to the sea to fish and then finish their activities at night, they look for shelter in those old boats.

“Many big boats are packed on the beaches of the Indian Ocean here in Lamu, Mokowe, Wiyoni, Matondoni, Shella, Kizingitini, Faza and elsewhere. These are what we use as our homes at night. We are sheltering from rain and severe cold. We also cook in these boats before going home at dawn after work,” said Mr Yusuf.

The investigation also revealed that apart from families without official residences using big boats, there are also some people who when they are burdened with house rent they ended up sleeping on big boats even for a while.

Mr Charo Kathengi, a laborer on the island of Lamu, revealed that he personally had his house foreclosed by his landlord after failing to pay rent for two months.

“There I had to seek shelter on one of those big boats. I have no wife or children so it was easy for me to stay on the boat all night and then get up early and go to work. I returned to my house after about two weeks when I managed to get the required rent,” said Mr Kathengi.

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