Beirut: It was a chilly 10C when Adib Kassis sat down on the pavement to catch his breath. The 81-year-old had been walking around Beirut’s busy Hamra Street all day long carrying two bags full of his personal belongings.
Born in 1938, Kassis has been homeless for more than 10 years.
He walks among pedestrians collecting donations from passers-by.
“I’ve been seeing him roving up and down this street for nearly 12 years. Here, he is known as ‘Adib the homeless’. All those, who know him, try to help him out with whatever they can,” Maurice, an eatery manager, told Gulf News.
Kassis, who turned 81 in January according to his identification papers, hails from a well-known Lebanese family.
His father managed a popular bookstore in downtown Beirut, but after the Lebanese civil war his family suffered heavy financial losses.
“After my parents died 20 years ago, I was cheated out of my inheritance,” Kassis told Gulf News, without going into details about how it happened.
With no family to take care of him and no house to his name, Kassis made Hamra Street his home.
His days on Hamra Street are very structured.
Shortly after sunrise, he wakes up from his favourite sleeping spot under a tree near Cavalier Hotel at the beginning of Hamra Street.
The white-haired man walks between pedestrians, lugging his bags, asking for spare change.
He uses a walking stick and takes short rests—either sitting on the pavement or leaning on lamp-posts—whenever he gets tired.
Passers-by often offer the elderly man food or clothes and sometimes restaurant managers invite him in for a meal.
As the sun starts to set, Kassis heads towards the middle of Hamra Street where he lays out a small blanket and sits down beside his belongings and walking stick.
Leaning on a white metallic newspaper kiosk in front of Shoppers Supermarket [formerly Strand Cine-ma], he takes a long break between 7pm and 11pm where he spends his time watching pedestrians and also accepting donations.
At 11pm, he collects his belongings, hails a taxi and heads back to his sleeping spot.
There, he lays out on a blanket next to his belongings that he stacks beside a wall and goes to sleep.
Homelessness is a rare occurrence in Lebanon where the family structure is strong.
Destitute individuals are almost always looked after by family members.
Doctors who routinely check up on Kassis say he in need of a hernia surgery.
“We keep checking on him and if he requires any urgent medical treatment we will treat him,” Dr. Walid Ghalayyini, a doctor with the Lebanese Health Ministry, told Gulf News.
When asked about what he wants from life, Kassis said he just wants a warm shelter where he can live out the remainder of his days with some dignity.
-Bassam is a freelance journalist based in Beirut
-With inputs from Layelle Saad GCC/Middle East Editor