Elderly being forced out of family homes to live on streets

I was riding home around midnight after buying a handful of hot spicy short eats in the drizzling rain, when I spotted what seemed like a human body lying on the pavement of a street near the local market in capital Male’

Curious, I asked my friend to stop the bike and walked closer to confirm my impression. Under a thin piece of ragged bed sheet – to my astonishment – lay a wrinkled old lady shivering herself to sleep.

That was the first encounter with Kadheeja Adam (or Shiraanee, as she prefers to be called), an elderly woman living alone on the streets of Male’.

For almost five years, she says, her home has been the streets surrounding the market. She survives on handouts from the local vendors, and occasional offerings from sympathetic passersby. She showers in the pay toilets around the block. Dressed modestly in dirty and frayed clothes, she keeps her few belongings tucked closely to her as she sleeps on the sheltered corner of a storehouse gate near the market.

Shiraanee says recently some of those clothes were mistakenly taken away as trash by the municipal officials one night, but she is happy because her favorite tin full of areca nuts was not taken.

“I don’t have anywhere else to go,” Shiraanee replies bluntly each time I inquire why she is living on the streets.

Judging by her impaired vision, frail face and emerging grey hair, she appears to be in her 50s or 60s. But the most telling sign of age is her deteriorating mental capability.

Shiraanee says her house on Kandumaavaidhoo island of Haa Dhaalu Atoll was destroyed in the 2004 tsunami, forcing her to seek refuge in relatives’ homes – where she was never wanted.

“I moved from island to island. Stayed with some relatives and people I know. But nobody wanted me. So I came to Male’ on a ferry to live with my daughter,” Shiraanee said.

Shiraanee claims her daughter Aminath lives in Male’ with her husband and kids, and that she was planning to live with her. “But there was no space for me.”

When asked if she moved out or was abandoned by her daughter, Shiraanee does not respond. She claims not to know where her daughter lives anymore.

“I don’t know where she lives. They moved to a new house people say. She used to come ask for money before. Not anymore,” she said.

A few local vendors at the market who spoke to Minivan News said that it was rumored that Shiraanee is very stubborn, and moved out on her own to live on the street. I asked why.

“How do we know?” they responded. “There are so many people who are living on the streets nowadays.”

Distressing but true, Shiraanee happens to be just one among the growing number of “homeless” in Male’ – an upsetting trend which is quietly being “accepted” as a part of the society, despite the fact that maltreatment of the elderly is illegal and also considered to be among the greatest sins in Islam.

To the local fishermen and vendors at the market area lines of beggars, mostly old people of both genders, is a common annoyance.

No less than 10 people sit near the market to beg everyday from dawn, scattering away at nightfall.

Market vendors say many beggars have families or houses in the capital. “I really don’t understand why they are living like this. Some of them even refuse to go when their children come to get them,” said one vendor.

But he acknowledged that an unfortunate few like Shiraanee who have nowhere else to go spend their nights on the streets, in open parks or hidden in empty buildings – at the mercy of the cold nights and hooligans.

Some beggars claim being robbed or harassed by boys on the street.

“I have not been attacked,” Shiraane said. “When I give them some money they go away.”

One beggar said a Male’ shop owner used to pay him some small sum to sleep next to the shop and keep the burglars away.

“I get some cash or free stuff sometimes when I sleep there [near the shop]. But the shopkeeper hired a watchman later. So I beg near the market during the day and sleep in the fisherman’s park,” the 70 year-old man said.

Police are apparently “useless” when it comes to resolving the situation.

During the two nights I sat with Shiraanee listening to her story, policemen patrolling the area came to question what I was doing out there. So I responded with questions pretending to be a concerned citizen: “Why don’t you question the woman sleeping on the street? Shouldn’t you do something about this?”

The policemen said that it was a “common” problem and that they have requested the people not to sleep on the roads.

“Some of them [people living on streets] come from islands. So we identify them we take them to boats and ask them to go back. But the next day we see them here [in the market] again,” one policeman explained. “There is nothing we can do. We can’t keep them under our custody. So we refer the case to the ministry.”

However, the absence of an effective initiative to address the queue of beggars or old people living on Male’s streets indicates that the plight of homeless people is far from a resolution.

As opposed to most countries providing shelters for the needy, Maldives does not have any existing shelters or elderly care centers – therefore, hope that homeless will find a safe place to live seems bleak.

The government-operated “Home for People with Special Needs” on Guraidhoo island of Kaafu Atoll rarely accepts the destitute elderly; authorities have repeatedly pointed out that the facility – which is already under-equipped and cramped – is meant for the disabled, rather than the homeless.

Last year, the cabinet approved a resolution to allow private parties to develop residential home for the elderly under the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) scheme, but progress remains unclear.

At a time when social issues such as sexual abuse, gender discrimination and drugs make headlines, and abandoned babies elicit public outrage, should not the misery of the abandoned elderly receive equal attention?

Or must we wait until the night when a passerby finds the dead body of a homeless man or woman lying cold in the street?


28 thoughts on “Elderly being forced out of family homes to live on streets”

  1. lubna!
    Who cares? the so called leaders (President Nasheed, Maumoon, Thasmeen, Yameen, Gasim..etc) are marching for person greed of power and wealth at the expense of ordinary citizens! President Nasheed is consolidating all powers to build up a KINGDOM! He has all corrupt and ethically corrupt (alcholics, child abusers, fornicators..etc) in his team with very few clean individuals (who barely stand up). The situation is no different in opposition. Sad indeed! The Majlis is full of these characters and taking home each month Rf 85,000 in cash each month with other benefits exclusively for them!! What a shame!! Media is highly twisted starting with Minivan news which is a propaganda machine for foreigners to justify the actions of government specially in current breach of law by President Nasheed is "well justified" some how! Dhitv and VTV controled by elite (shareholders of this society). All youth working resorts openly see and experience the leaders of this country enjoying the heavenly "drinks" and ladies and children under aged! And these leaders are above the law!! Nobody dares to talk! NOT EVEN YOU LUBNA!! YOU VERY WELL KNOW SOME KEY POLITICIAN HAVE ABUSED YOUNG BOYS AND GIRLS! AND yet you cannot stand up and expose or stand up for the justice!! What a shame!!
    Today the drama played is to install a softer Islamic so called version (deviant and invented) "Suffism" as per the RAND plan (how to build a moderate Islamic society that has no threat to dominant ideology! WHERE IS DEMOCRACY AND FREEDOM OF KNOWLEDGE?)
    Ofcourse THERE ARE BIG ISSUES IN JUDICIARY!! BUT to go out of law and mock independent institution (like PG and HRC) is dangerous and shows the signs of dictatorial implantation as President Nasheed has realized with two famous protests (1.agaisnt Alcohol in habitat island 2. famous 23rd December protest) that he cannot win against islamic ideology and cannot do it the democratic way! so HE BECAME THE DICTATOR TODAY!! HE NEVER BELIEVED IN DEMOCRACY, BUT ALWAYS WANTED TO TURN MALDIVES INTO A SECULAR STATE WHERE PROSITUTION IS ALLOWED IN A RESTRICTED AREA, ALCOHOL IS AVAILABLE IN ALL CAFES ACROSS MALDIVES FOR ALL MALDIVIANS THOSE WHO WANT TO DRINK, GAMBLING IS ALLOWED..ETC.
    President Nasheed is a dangerous man!! I know what I am saying..but he believes he can distroy this nation's social fabric and dismantle the religious values, President Nasheed is mistaken!! Allah SW will protect his religion from this madness and also reform the practices of Islam as Islam has been freezed since the last 1000 years with denying education to women, youth and progress thinking!! what President Nasheed stand for is not the Islamic ideology, but Satanic ideology! So a simple google research on Satanic worship and its link to global leaders and you will wake up!! I wish the story in the Surah Kahf can be repeated with me among the group till the this "age of stupidity" passes and new dawn begins!! MINIVAN NEWS STOP PROPAGATING NASHEED AGENDA!

  2. Marie, you should move to Afghanistan or some other Muslim country if you feel so strongly about protecting the religion! Secularism is one of the greatest things that can happen to our country whether you want to believe it or not. What is so wrong about it? Secularism doesn't mean prostitution or being drunk the whole time. It means that there is freedom of religion and people respect each other unlike right now....it's supposed to be a 100% muslim country and you have to admit that it was more pleasant when the country was moderate without the mullahs who are spreading an "Islam" most of us are not familiar with!

  3. there is no inhabited island called kandoomaavaidhoo island in maldives. SO THE GENUINEMESS AND VALIDITY OF THIS WHOLE ARTICLE IS QUESTIONABLE. tsunami assessments were undertaken and documented, UN emergency handbook assessment methodologies were employed initial assessments were undertaken by volunteer teams of building professionals, and later in more detail by the Red Crosses. It is highly unlikely that a tsunami damaged house would have been missed. of course a fictional house on a fictional island may not have been rebuilt the people of this country showed remarkable solidarity and as a nation did remarkable things during the time of national disaster. unlike now, when people like you try and fabricate any excuse to divide this country and its people by fabricating issues and try AND PORTRAY MALDIVIANS AS INCOMPETENT, OR TERRORISTS. is this lady registered on welfare?

  4. The Male' City Council should open a 'Care Home' for these elders who have no one to take care of them. Such homes exhist in all civilized countries but offcourse why would our government bother, we are not yet civilized and its still a long way for us to even realize these things. Our leaders don't care for us and our politicians think of their big fat wallets and bank accounts only.

  5. marie, It seems that you have also taken some of the so called "heavenly" drinks that you accuse Nasheed of consuming, by the illogical and ignorant rant.

    Nasheed is no angel but the ills of this country cannot be blamed on him alone. We were going under long before 2008 and at least with Nasheed you can write this blog and call him "ganja boa" and you know that you would not be arrested.
    Try it before 2008 and you would end up in Dhoonidhoo or Gaamaadhoo for sure and you and your family would be destroyed.

    This is a pathetic site but this is a social problem and not a state problem in that people are being abandoned.
    The best way to deal with these matters are to name and shame the families who abandon their elderly parents.

  6. Whats so bad about being secular? Not that I support or reject it but what do u think turkey is?
    ALl you think is to keep people under fist and force them not to do what you don't like, which doesn't even harm others in most cases.

  7. As a resident of Male, I hear stories of old immigrants who worked as domestic help on other islands being brought to Male and abandoned. These people who, long ago, lost knowledge of their country and family back home and now have no travel documents, or have travel documents taken away by their former employers are now abandoned by these religious people who pray five times a day but yet find it OK to abandoned to aged and infirm who served them loyally for many years. Such is the behaviour of their "enlightened" society.

  8. dear marie
    FYI, to change the constitution one would need a 2/3 majority in the parliament. I really can not begin to imagine the parliament agreeing on ANYTHING. So stop sweating, if anything, it is the parliament that can change the religion of this country. See, they have passed the dhivehi islam bill, they will soon pass the mandatory buruga bill.. they will soon pass the mandatory three wifes bill.. they will soon pass the chop your hands bill.. stone the rape victim bill... no vaccine bill... no female education bill... no art bill... no laughing loud bill... jaariyaa bill... female circumcision bill... come on lets get real, like seriously do you think that any politician in the right mind would try change the religion of this country... the change you see around is inevitable here and outside... love, respect, freedom, friendship, liberty, equality and brotherhood negates all religions.... humanity will move and continue to stride in this direction with or without anni or the freak-show parliament.

    One cannot, in most cases stand up without a just and fair judiciary and this is exactly why the opposition and the elite do not want to clean and fix the judiciary, because they know people like you and Lubna (the author) will stand up against "... the leaders of this country [who enjoy] the heavenly “drinks” and ladies and children under aged!" ".

    The "common enemy"; the rich elite... they keep playing the judiciary, the executive and the parliament for the amusement of the public.

    marie, if you keep attacking the articles and the publication it will have very little effect on the common enemy; the rich elite. Yet! yet! how would you be able to stand up unless Plato be wrong:

    "The first lie is about Religion. Plato deems the need of "Religion" not for spiritual reason since it is based on "likely myths" but to ensure that the elites will be accepted as the rulers. Basically, citizens will have to believe that:

    - gods exist and the elites are their descendants

    - gods and so the elites care for the world

    - gods and so the elites cannot be "bought" or corrupted by men's gifts or prayers. "

    damit... i just lost my trail of thought.. good night

  9. Can the commentators here please stop politicising the plight of these poor elderly folk? It's a very sad state of affairs and reflects a society that has been transforming from its old values.

    Although a common site in many parts of the world, I never thought I'd see the day elderly people will be seen sleeping rough on our streets! It's our collective responsibility to look after these folk.

    There are various charitable institutions in other countries that look after people in this situation. I sincerely hope that the more well off parts of this society will have some compassion in their heart and take some action.

  10. i think we have to learn to live with the Mullahs. They have no agenda, some one must pay them to keep preaching. They have no knowledge of the world around the. For them the only oppressed people are the Palestinians. They want Maldives to stand up agains Israel, the US and the west and defend the Palestinian people.

  11. the religion of this country or the whole world for that matter is Money. we pray money, wealth and power. Humanity, sharing, caring has long lost with the teachings of all those great "prophets".. its not rocket science and very obvious if you look around and think for a bit.

    Im sure we could provide a lot even with the SMS money they got last night in VTV poll abt Gazee Abdulla last night.. its just that its not in our interest yet (it seems) to share or practice our ciritical faculties so that we may be more human. the street of Male' is but a very minute or a very small example of how our human society rots, where one person enjoys luxurious life with gold toilets, the other sleeps on the streets without basic need. and we wonder why so much suffering and war. i weep for humanity.

  12. I'm surprised that there are so many secularists(Jews) and atheists(Jews) commenting on Minivan. But what gives me relief is the thought of them burning in the depths of jahannam!

  13. @Hawwa Lubna: This is a good attempt at addressing a very much needy cause and I salute you for trying your hand at this, but I would like to say that good journalists check facts before the news items are sent out to the public. I hope we are going to see more items on social issues brought to the attention of the public and the government, but please remember to go for the triangular check before the news item is finalized. And for all the readers out there, I have one question: Is it the responsibility of the government to love, care and look after your own parents who looked after you when you were small?

  14. They started sleeping there since Prez nasheed assumed power. those who frequent the area know this very well. May be this is the first time the writer is seeing such a thing. The fact is that poverty level has risen since nasheed came to power and only few has pocketed all the benefits from this regime.

  15. @dvd please find your trail of thought and finish your story, I was enjoying what I was reading and I would like to read the conclusion...

    This is a sad story

  16. Very good article.

    There is a homeless man who sleeps on the pavement outside the building where I work.

    The man appears to be mentally troubled and does not speak with anyone.

    I was very disturbed one night to see him literally sleeping outside in the rain, visibly shivering in the cold.

    After asking about him, I found out that he was apparently abandoned by his family - and nobody was entirely sure where he was from. He kept his only belongings - a small suitcase - in a nearby mosque, and lived on handouts from passersby.

    We tried handing him over to the police, hoping they would find him shelter - or track down his family.

    But the man returned just a day or two later, after the police 'released' him without making any apparent efforts to help him.

    It is unfortunate, and deeply shameful for us as a society to let this happen to our own people.

    I find it especially appalling that while our own people are hungry, cold and on the streets, we still find money to blow on large feasts during Ramazan and - even worse - even send large sums of money every year to people in faraway Palestine.

    Of course, this also applies to people who spend money on concerts and such.

    But at least the people who get paid tens of thousands of state money every month, and swear by the name of Islamic charity, and work out of an immaculately painted, gilded and carpeted Ministry building should be able to do more to help these people in distress.

    Surely, if our political parties spent a minuscule percentage of the money the spend on banners and megaphones and just generally being a public nuisance on a shelter for the homeless, this could be fixed.

  17. marie,

    Calm down.

    Nobody's stealing your religion - and this article isn't about satan worship or politics.

    I'm glad the writer took time out to write something genuinely important, and reflective of our society's morals.

    I find it deeply immoral that you have chosen to ignore this human story, and try to respond with your politically charged rhetoric instead - in the name of religion no less!

    If you cared so much about religion, or had the slightest fiber of morality in you, you would have written at least a sentence about the homeless lady or others like her.

    Instead, you are what I call a Maldivian-class Super-Muslim : a Muslim minus any semblance Islamic values, but with copious amounts of chest thumping pseudo-religious political rhetoric.

  18. Good point Yaamyn,

    I also agree that in a perfect world every country should do more for the poor and destitute living within their borders.

    If only the powerful political parties would spend a fraction of the amount they offer to Members of Parliament to cross over on the poor then we would live in a better world.

    If only post cross-over MPs would provide a fraction of their newly bought real estate for social housing then we would have less homeless on the streets.

    If only the activists among us would lobby political parties of foreign superpowers to funnel funds through Institutes for Charity for poverty alleviation programs rather than securing financial assistance to fight for the Presidency.

    If only dredging companies would at least make an attempt at Corporate Social Responsibility programs when they receive projects like its nobody's business.

    If only government-owned companies would invest a tiny amount of the cash they dole out to animators and television show producers to these poor starving people.

  19. Also I find it appalling that pretentious folk spend huge amounts on New Years day celebrations and for travel to the resorts to celebrate Christmas eve when these holidays have little to do with our local culture.

    Then of course there are those who constantly travel abroad causing precious foreign currency earnings to be lost on frivolous holidays.

  20. Then why new government and hundreds of very holy sheikh cannot do any things to help homeless people?Or officials very busy with politics games in 3d?

  21. Homeless and destitute is one thing but what about the elderly that have a roof over their heads but are still neglected and/or abused? A couple of years ago, my mom asked me to look at the window of the next building and what I saw was a gaunt looking old man dressed just in diapers sleeping on bare tiles under the kitchen table. My mom confessed that she had spied the woman of the house verbally accusing the old man several times and also that he had tried to feebly walk out. If domestic conditions are anything like this for some people, its no wonder that they chose to go out... at least they'd have some dignity.

  22. whoever said there is no kandumaaavaidhoo is lying. I have been to that island and its a beautiful island. Have seen the biggest giant trees anywhere. probably the trees grew big because they didn't have a harbour so there was no boat building. the island is abandoned now although.

  23. I hope this article will be an eye opener to who ever concerned.I think that a an adult care center should be opened. A lot of good things are done for children and youth.So when we are doing a thing like this(may be opening an Adult Care center or anything similar)We should get the Children and youth involved in it by some way or the other.
    I say this because it is the today's generation that grow up in to adults and they should understand how these people feel. And how it would be if they fall into the same condition one day.Let us not criticise the writer or his writings . Let us look into it as an existing problem and try to do something good for those whom we call our senior citizens who face this situation.

  24. Sheikh Imran Abdullah, you are so funny.
    There is more religions in the world than Islam and "jews"... Perhaps you want to make a little Google on it...

    I will be enjoying hell without you - perhaps I will send you a thought when you are struggling with your 72 virgins... good luck!

    Regards to the subject at hand, I always believed the people in Maldives being so good and pure looking after the elderly. I am sad to see there is no alternative for the elderly on the street when the family do not care for them anymore. There is especially an old man I remember from Madjedhee Magu... People used to tell him that he should be ashamed of himself for begging, sad to see he might not have had a choice.

    Let's hope all the elderly homeless people get taken care of before they something bad happens. In my world, we can at lease pay for someone to take care of them if we cannot fit them at home, or if they need medical care etc. It's not an easy choice, but it's a better thing than leave them alone in the streets.

  25. The country with the largest islamic population in the world is secular.

  26. I am really shocked to read about elderly people on pavements in Male. I have visited Male two-three times, but never saw such persons. Means, recent development and change in attitude. My impression is that Maldivians like family tides. But, sorry Indian disease has reached there also with additional begging.It should be cured as soon as possible. Govt. and civil society, both should sit with the families of these persons, living on pavements and pacify the things without delay.


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