It has been a challenge trying to get some of the mentally disabled people off the streets for their own good, and the good of all. Sadly, these people are sometimes attacked and harassed by people who see them as a threat.
One woman, ma Martha, who spent more than a decade homeless on Bushrod Island, is one of those who many wanted to see get help.
“She was harmless and only wanted her raw cassava that she liked to chew on. The whole day she walked around with her two bundles. No one knew what was inside, but they seemed dear to her because they were always with her,” stated Tanneh, who sells alongside Caldwell junction.
Ma Martha could hold a conversation, but incoherently spoke a lot about her past. At times, she willingly accepted help, but never begged or accepted handouts. For these reasons, she had worn the same clothes for seven years.
“Ma Martha liked walking up and down Douala and Point Four junction. She never went beyond that area. At night, she slept in the swamp by Caldwell junction. Four years ago, the men shipping wood nearby built her a small place with just a zinc roof to keep the rain from falling on her. She didn’t like it, but slept under the shelter anyway. I don’t know what happened, but she crossed the street and started sleeping where everyone began throwing their piles of garbage,” Tanneh recalled.
Last month, ma Martha explained to this paper that she was walking along as usual when two men grabbed her bags from her, calling them trash and saying that they didn’t want to see her with them anymore. During the tussle, she was pushed onto an oncoming car. Her right wrist and forearm were broken.
They left the old ma lying on the street after the car hit her,” witnesses on the scene said.
“She tried to fight for her things, but the men claiming to be cleaners fought her and took her bags from her. They went off the road and opened all the bags to search for money or anything of value they could find inside,” they said.
Meanwhile, ma Martha explained to this paper what had happened and showed her broken forearm and dislocated wrist. Although she was in a lot of pain, she refused eating the food that she always accepted from this paper, including her favorite, raw cassava.
Gradually, everyone watched as ma Martha became weaker and thinner, always crying that her hand was hurting and that she wanted her bags. Unable to get both problems solved, ma Martha became distant and at one point stopped getting up from the garbage were she slept.
A couple of weeks ago, community people who normally throw their trash where ma Martha slept noticed a heap of clothes, rags, but never took notice of ma Martha, who had passed away where she slept. Her body remained there until the smell of her decomposed body sent concerned neighbors to the pile, where they saw ma Martha, bloated. She died with a painful look on her face. She was buried by the same community of people who always stood by and watched her, but never reached out to help the dying woman.
“If we had known she was sick, we would have helped, but no one knew because she was lying where she always loved to lie,” said Tanneh.