NAIROBI, KENYA: For as little as Sh50, you can get a ‘safe’ place in the city to spend a night. The only conditions are that you must be a woman and bring your own bedding.
This place in Gikomba commonly referred to as ‘mothers’ home’ provides shelter for more than 100 women every night.
The first floor of the building located opposite the Machakos Bus Station exit is a large space with sacks stuffed with rugs that serve as mattresses for the many women who seek shelter there.
The local people said there were many such places in the area, with different guest houses offering different packages at different prices.
Noni Naipanoi, who sells herbs at the Gikomba market is a regular customer at the place.
After spending the day at the market where she makes about Sh600, Naipanoi goes to sleep at the lodge.
“I pay Sh50 to a woman called Njeri who is in charge of the place and she gives me a receipt and a five-litre jerrycan of water for showering the following morning,” she said.
Naipanoi said that depending on the number of guests, one is either allocated a ‘mattress’ to herself or has to share.
“The place is nice. There is a television set which we all watch. Some days, there are so many people we have to share a sack. We sleep facing opposite directions,” she said.
“There is also electricity and the lights are not switched off until around 11pm or midnight, when we go to sleep.”
Naipanoi said the place was open from 5pm until 9am the following morning. At night, the door is locked and a security guard posted.
Pamela Oduor, a day house help, finds her way to the building after work. However some days, she cannot afford the Sh50 and has to look for a cheaper option.
“There is another place deeper inside the market where they charge Sh40. I go there sometimes when I don’t have enough cash,” she said.
Oduor said she only goes to the cheaper place when she is stranded because it is infested with bed bugs.
One advantage is that it allows day stay, unlike the other places.
“The place has so many bed bugs you can’t sleep. It is also very noisy. The last time I was there I asked the person in charge to spray the room,” she said.
There is a common bathroom where customers can clean up in the morning.
“We make a long queue and shower together. There is always space for one more person since we do not use buckets,” she said.
Oduor said some people bring children and they are charged half the fee for the extra person.
“Passengers who are stranded or a woman who has quarrelled with her husband are some of the people who come to spend the night here,” she said.