Homeless but ready for Covid-19

Arthur Scoble says that if he catches Covid-19, “it would be a blessing”. He’s lived enough of life. The 71-year-old believes that whatever heaven there is, it would be better than the life he is living. He is tired of the world’s curveballs; far too many valleys and too few peaks. He is battle-worn and weary. It takes him about an hour every morning to warm up his aching muscles. And the Covid-19 crisis adds another burden along with just finding a comfortable place to rest.

“I get a Sassa [South African Social Security Agency] pension, which only lasts a day, really. I live in a motorcar that needs to be maintained. Petrol is exorbitant. I use it as sparingly as possible. But it’s my home, it’s where I sleep, and where I live,” he says.

Scoble’s gold-brown jalopy has, like him, seen better days. It is one of his few possessions, but it is beloved.

The passenger seat is his bed. The backseat is his closet. The dashboard is where he keeps his over-the-counter pills that keep his aches at bay. The cubbyhole stores his spectacles, a pen and his diary.

Scoble hasn’t always been roughing it this bad — It’s only been like this for a few weeks. At the time of the national lockdown, the City of Cape Town shut public amenities such as beaches, campsites, washhouses and public toilets.

Because the nearby Blouberg beachfront is closed, he can’t sell little trinkets, keyrings and pepper sprays to supplement his pension.

He also misses the people he’s befriended on the beach boardwalk. It was a break from the loneliness and boredom of his car. 

“I hooked up with two friends in the same position as myself, long before the lockdown. And we started clubbing money together. We lived in the [city-run] caravan park. There were ablution blocks; we could live in a tent. There’s a vast difference [between] living in a tent and in a car.

“With the lockdown, they told us to get out. There were only three of us in the massive caravan park. I told the manager to tell his superiors ‘thanks for exposing us to this virus’. So now we have a thousand percent chance of getting it,” he says.

Arthur Scoble sleeps on his car’s back passenger seat (David Harrison)

Scoble is caught in the grey area of the lockdown regulations. But with everything that has gone wrong, he is still aware of what is going right for him.

“I think I have enough food. All I really want is a shower,” he says.

Scoble, with his two companions living in their own rundown bakkie, make the most of what they have. They’ve created a family to look out for each other during the lockdown, and also ensure that any wanderer passing by gets help. 

“It’s reasonably safe here. You see the odd vagrant who comes here looking for a cigarette or something to eat. There was one who came here the other night. He asked if he could sleep here close by us. I gave him one of my blankets and he slept. The next morning my blanket was folded on my car’s bonnet and he was gone,” Scoble says.

For now, it’s about riding out the storm; staying as healthy as possible and keeping their head down in case they are forced into a shelter.

“I’ve got my own conclusions about what I will do if the virus comes, while I can still see to myself. If it comes it must come. Heart attack can come before. I’m ready. I’m on good terms with my maker. I know where I’m going to go. I’m a realist,” he says.

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