Over a dozen street dwellers have been displaced after barricades were put up around Harris Promenade and other public spaces in San Fernando, in a bid to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Early yesterday, Mayor Junia Regrello and his team began dismantling tents and other structures used by the homeless to shelter from the rain and sun. Caution tape was placed around the Promenade. Similar illegal structures were demolished at Coffee Street, Lewis Street and Cipero Street.
But the street dwellers, who have been living on the Promenade for years, say they now do not know where to go because the night shelters and Court Shamrock Home for the Socially Displaced are full.
Court Shamrock was recently renovated and accommodates over 50 people, while the Caribbean Dawah Association’s night shelter accommodates 30.
Street dweller Amardeo Bijou told Guardian Media he goes to the Promenade every day to get food from Good Samaritans.
“Right now we have nowhere to go. Where they want us to go? The night shelters close at 6 o’clock in the morning and where they expect us to go after that,” he said.
Bijou said his father had committed suicide years ago and his brothers later sold their family’s home, leaving him on the streets.
Ronald Mohammed, a former Port Authority worker who fell on hard times, said he started drinking Bayrum and even contemplated self-harm at one point. Now that they have been moved out, he too felt defenceless.
But Regrello promised to find accommodation for the street dwellers at Court Shamrock. He said the barricades were needed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, noting that members of the public were continuing to congregate at the Promenade.
He said people go to feed the homeless and this also poses health risks.
“We are gathering data on how to assist these people. In the interim, while the Ministry of Social Development works out a solution, we are trying to assist. I will speak to Shamrock and if we can provide additional beds, we will do so. We will examine the state of each individual. If there are no beds in Shamrock, we will purchase beds,” Regrello said.
Agreeing that the situation was “heartbreaking,” Regrello said, “It is also a sensitive issue and we are trying to deal with it as best as we could.”
Regrello said Bijou was not homeless but visited the Promenade every day for food. He said so far, they had identified five people who are willing to leave the streets and two others in need of employment.
Meanwhile head of the Caribbean Dawah Association, Asad Yacoobali, said 30 street dwellers are accommodated at the night shelter. He said they all receive dinner and breakfast.
The association receives no government stipend and is funded entirely by Good Samaritans. He said so far, there is no more room for any other street dweller but noted that if the Association gets a bigger space, they will accommodate more people.
He said with increased evictions and joblessness, more people were ending up on the streets.
Anyone wanting to assist the homeless can contact Yacoobali at 323- 8402 or make contributions to Caribbean Dawah Association RBC- 110000004253731.
To schedule a meal contact Amirah at 468-6237.