“A real concern” is how the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD) describes the condition of more than 2,000 homeless who take refuge on our streets. The Government of Jamaica (GOJ) identifies the homeless as one of the most vulnerable groups and has pursued several initiatives to offer support.
Drop-in centres are places where homeless persons receive food, clothing, a bath and medical/mental care. Although not designed to house the homeless, if a shelter is not nearby, persons can be accommodated. There are currently 11 drop-in centres islandwide and individuals can simply walk in to access services.
There are two official night shelters which are located in Kingston – the Marie Atkins Night Shelter and the Church Street Shelter. These facilities operate between 6:00 p.m. to around 7:00 a.m. offering meals and nightly accommodations to persons in need.
Transitional facilities are 24-hour operations that house individuals for up to 2 years. These places help individuals to develop skills and coping mechanisms to allow for re-integration into society. Persons are admitted after they have met the requirements of the Poor Relief Department, an agency of the MLGRD. There are currently 6 transitional facilities located in Kingston, Portland, St. James, Westmoreland and Manchester.
The Poor Relief Department supports persons who are homeless, living in very poor conditions or facing eviction with rental assistance. Rental assistance is dependent on the assessment results of individuals’ living conditions. For help, persons can visit their poor relief department which is located in each municipality.
Housing and Training Opportunities
The GOJ has partnered with the Don and Ruby Morgan Hope Opportunity Charity Limited to provide housing for at-risk youth. These young people will also be given training and entrepreneurship support through the Housing, Opportunity, Production and Employment (HOPE) Programme in order to encourage self-sufficiency. Persons can visit their nearest HEART NSTA/Trust office to fill out an application.
The GOJ has intensified its efforts to help the homeless since the onset of the novel coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19). Some of these efforts include:
- Special Feeding Programme
This initiative is a joint effort between the municipal corporations, corporate Jamaica, churches and other volunteers. Approximately 30,000 meals and care packages are distributed through drop-in centres daily.
- Shelter Expansion
Most recently, the Marie Atkins Night Shelter received additional support through the provision of 150 beds for the homeless. This expansion was accelerated by the imposition of nightly curfews. There are also plans to construct shelters on King Street in Downtown Kingston, Falmouth and Ocho Rios.
- Increased Police Patrol
The Government has committed to increasing police patrols in targeted areas to safeguard homeless persons against various acts of violence.
For further information, contact:
Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development
61 Hagley Park Road
6B Oxford Road