Like a dimple moulded in the face of a beautiful sculpture, the sunken parking lot sits undaunted by the monstrous buildings that form the city skyline. During the day, the space opposite Jogoo House – headquarters for the Office of the Inspector General and the Ministry of education – serves as a parking lot.
But in the evening, it is many things to many people. To the street families, it serves as ‘home’ while city hustlers transform it into a car wash yard once the county askari are nowhere to be seen. When we visited the park yesterday, we found a group of homeless boys who literally live there.
They even have makeshift beds made out of polythene paper, which they place under a tree. Augustine Chachamweya, a 28-year-old man from Dodoma, Tanzania, has lived here since 2005, when he fled from home.
“I ran away from home because I did not like going to school. My parents did not allow me to drink alcohol and smoke bhang; I just wanted my freedom,” said Mr Chachamweya.
He added that they had not been able to find jobs and the only thing they could do was wash the cars that are parked there, which most of the time gets them in trouble with the county enforcement officers.
“Most of the time we get arrested by the county officers who say washing cars here is illegal. The money we get from washing cars can only afford us one meal a day,” he said.
James Mainge, 32, who also lives in the parking lot, said at night, the place acts as a dormitory as several street families come there to find a place to lay their heads.
“We are not the only ones who live here. There are many families and individuals who come to sleep at night and leave in the morning,” said Mainge.
Next to the tree where they have their makeshift beds is a dumpsite full of garbage. This is where they forage for food before the garbage is collected in the mornings or evenings.