KINGSTON – The Board of Supervision (BOS) of the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development is putting in place an identification system, as it looks to more adequately meet the needs of Jamaica’s homeless.
National Homelessness Coordinator, Damion Campbell, told JIS News that the system, which is currently in the implementation phase, will be used to identify and monitor homeless persons across the island.
"This system will enable the BOS to track the movement of homeless persons over time. If persons so happen to move from one parish to the other, they can be easily identified, irrespective of their parish of residence," he said.
The system will complement efforts already underway in some parishes, where a homeless count is done on a daily basis, with pictures and other relevant information taken for reference.
According to Mr. Campbell, the aim is to address the needs of the homeless, with the ultimate aim of reducing the population, estimated at 884 persons.
He said that a number of interventions are being provided with the objective of empowering persons to get back into society and to rejoin their families.
Among these are: outreach initiatives to connect clients to services and appropriate and affordable housing; and rehabilitation, empowerment and reintegration services through partnership with diverse stakeholders.
Person can access accommodation, hygiene care, and warm meals at facilities across the island. These include the Marie Atkins Night Shelter in Kingston; Portland Rehabilitation Centre and Open Arms Drop-In Centre, Portland; Refuge of Hope in St. James; Westmoreland Association for Street People (WASP) in Savanna-la-mar; and the Ebenezer Home in Manchester.
"Each individual is expected to reside at the home for an extended period, where their physical, social and safety needs are provided for. We also have a feeding programme, which extends throughout several parishes. Persons are fed at least three times weekly, and medical assistance is also provided," Mr. Campbell informed.
Assistance is rendered through collaboration with faith and community-based organisations, and Mr. Campbell told JIS News that in some cases, more than five different programmes are offered in one parish.
Even with these efforts, he said that more needs to be done to reach those persons, who are in dire need.
"We are really trying to standardise and formalise the feeding programme in all parishes and in general all homeless facilities, to achieve our objectives," he said.
He noted that one sure way to end homelessness is to provide suitable accommodation for destitute persons, noting that "the board…has been aggressive in its efforts to do so."
He also notes that funding remains a challenge in adequately meeting needs and is therefore urging the public to "reach out and touch the life of the homeless by donating cash or kind, being a volunteer, being a friend, providing jobs, and simply spreading the word about the work of the BOS".
For further information, persons can contact the BOS at 954-0992-9, or the MLGCD at 754-0992-9.
By Jeneva Gordon, JIS PR Officer