Minister of Local Government and Community Development, Hon. Desmond McKenzie, says that since the onset of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Government has been providing more than 30,000 meals per day for poor and vulnerable persons in communities islandwide.
The meals are being provided at drop-in centres and other facilities across the country.
Minister McKenzie informed that more than 2,000 homeless persons receive two meals per day at the drop-in centres. He said there are other persons who are not homeless but visit the facilities to access meals.
“We feed those people also, so when you factor that in we might soon be providing up to 40,000 meals in facilities across the island. This meal programme is a public- and private-sector partnership, as a number of corporate entities have rendered assistance,” the Minister said.
He was speaking at the official opening of the Trelawny Drop-In Centre in Falmouth on Wednesday (July 15).
The Trelawny facility is the fifth to be built under the Ministry’s Social Protection Programme. Similar centres have opened in Ocho Rios, St. Ann; Port Maria in St. Mary; Lucea, Hanover, and Black River, St. Elizabeth.
Others are expected to come on stream soon in St. Thomas and Linstead in St. Catherine.
“There are about 200 homeless people in Linstead alone, which is literally begging for a drop-in centre, which we will be doing very soon,” Mr. McKenzie said.
He said that the Government has built these drop-in facilities “so we can reach as many people as possible and where we can provide them with food, medicine and in some cases, a place to sleep”.
“While they were not intended for overnight stay, I [have instructed] that if they are tired and want somewhere to sleep, don’t turn them away; provide a bed and let them sleep,” he noted.
Minister McKenzie said that the Government has a duty to protect the vulnerable, including the poor, the elderly and the homeless, and has demonstrated this responsibility through the refurbishing of infirmaries and the building of drop-in centres.
“The expansion of national facilities that will provide care and comfort to our homeless citizens is an important aspect of the work of this Government,” he noted.
“It is one of the features of the human face of this Administration, and a symbol of our commitment to assisting the vulnerable in our society,” he added.