Havana Hides its Beggers

Mendigo. (14ymedio)
For several days, brigades from the Ministry of Public Health are interning the city’s beggars in health facilities to get them off the street. (14ymedio)

Fixing up the Latin American Stadium and repairing the streets where Barack Obama’s motorcade will travel are just a part of the preparations before the coming of the president of the United States to Havana this Sunday.

Nancy Navarro, a nurse at the January 1st Teaching Polyclinic in the Playa district, told  14ymedio that there was a meeting at her workplace to prepare a census of the people wandering around the city. The process also included an assessment by professionals specializing in mental health, who in the company of other technicians are responsible for picking up the beggars, “on the street or even in their homes.” 

A doctor from the Fifth Canaria Health Center in the municipality of Arroyo Naranjo, said that “seniors roaming the streets of Havana’s various municipalities will be interned” there. The employee acknowledged that she expected an influx of a little more than 200 elderly, “although this is a very high figure for the facility because it does have ideal conditions for sheltering them.”

Yaneysi Rios, a doctor at the 14 th Clinic in the municipality of Habana del Este, explained that many homeless people do not have family and need to be hospitalized for life. “It is up to us to see to these people who belong to our medical center, many are elderly and that have no family nor do they receive care from any parallel institution. In reality they need to be hospitalized for better care of their health,” she added.

One of those elders who wanders around the city is Rogelio. He can be seen in a centrally located park in Vedado as well as in the remotest neighborhoods on the outskirts. “I’m retired from transport for more than 15 years ago and since then I collect cans in different places and in nightclubs. With over 42 years of work I have no place to live, so today I stay here and tomorrow there,” he said.

Now he is trying to hide from the eyes of the police and medical teams who are inspecting the streets. He does not want to go to a detention center because he prefers “to have my independence.” Xiomara Kindelan agrees with him. Her 69-year-old brother was taken to one of those temporary centers while she wasn’t home. “Truly he roams” she declared, “but if they had told me to control him so he would not to leave the house for several days, I would have no problem, ultimately he is my younger brother.”

Neighbors on Monte street, in the municipality of Old Havana, watched when employees from Public Health approached several people begging in the streets and put them on a bus. A worker from Community Services in the area said that since early Monday the raid has been massive: “I have not seen anything like it and I have spent years working here, anyone with the hint of a being beggar was forced on the bus, many are elderly people living in the area who have children and grandchildren who are dedicated to their care.”

Reinier Lopez, a resident of Monte Street at the corner of Angeles, said he was angry because his grandfather was taken away “like a dog in the street… I do not agree with these actions, I am a trained young man and for five years I have devoted myself to my job, my house and caring for my grandfather who is 78. Now he is in a place for people with mental disorders it is not the right thing when you have family members who care for you,” he argued.

Although these measures were never officially announced, some homeless migrated to more distant neighborhoods, while the families of others are hosting them temporarily until Obama finally says goodbye to the island and life returns to normal.

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