A beggar along Muindi Mbingu Street. Some beggars live more lavish lives than their benefactors. (Photo: File/Standard)
Hungry, rugged, and disabled, beggars have become a prominent feature of the City in the Sun.
They hit the streets early in morning with only one goal in mind – to make money by strumming on the heartstrings of city residents out to earn their daily bread.
Children are not left out, employed as conduits by men and women who have been on the streets for years. The incessant shaking of the tins, plastic cups, or the bags they use to collect money from the public is a sight that most city folk are used to. However, most people might not be aware that some beggars take home more money than they do.
“On a good day I will make approximately Sh2,000 in coins and notes from the public. Sometimes I even reach the Sh3,000 mark. This ensures that my daughter and I are fed on a daily basis since I am unemployed” says Mary Wairimu.
She admits that using children to beg has its advantages because Nairobians are more receptive to the innocent-looking faces. She says she lives in Kibera and that she is in the Nairobi city centre by daybreak to catch the early risers, usually motorists.
Her areas of operation include Waiyaki Way, where there is usually a traffic snarl-up that allows her to go knocking on car windows.
“Most people will ignore you but on a lucky occasion I once got a foreigner who gave me a Sh1,000 note and I could not contain myself,” she said.
She uses some of her earnings to ‘hire’ street children but keeps the lion’s share for herself. Other women have made their way to Moi Avenue at the Jamia Mosque corner, Muindi Mbingu Street, Kenyatta Avenue, and Kimathi Street. Many operate from outside the National Archives building.
The Globe Cinema roundabout and Ngara’s Fig Tree market also play host to many beggars.
Threat of askaris
Ken Lusaka, a street beggar who operates along Tom Mboya Street, says he has had to move to different places to escape from county askaris. He wears a cast after he suffered a broken leg and says that despite the frequent run-ins with the ‘kanjo’ askaris, begging is lucrative.
“The county askaris usually chase us away during the day and that is why we come out in the early morning hours and in the evening,” he says.
Since last year, the Nairobi County government has been unsuccessful trying to rid the streets of street families, which keep coming back.