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JIS News

A sum of $27.3 million has been allocated to Poor Relief Services in the 2008/09 financial year, up from the $18.984 million it received in the 2007/08 budget, according to the Estimates of Expenditure, now before the House of Representatives.
The new allocation includes $15.962 million for the Board of Supervision and $11.3 million for the Homeless (Street People) Programme. At the end of last year, 14,751 Jamaicans were on the roll of the Outdoor Registered Poor Roll. These are people in need, who receive aid from the State by virtue of their condition and who have registered with Poor Relief, which is administered by the Board of Supervision. This number is comprised of 11,442 heads of households and 3,273 children who are dependents of household heads.
At the same time, there are 1,538 persons at the Vineyard Town Golden Age Home and other infirmaries islandwide.
Speaking with JIS News, Head of the Board of Supervision Carol Anthony said the Poor Relief Department is evolving. Formerly, this body had the reputation of preventing starvation by feeding people, who were perceived by the system as being ‘lazy’.
Now, it focuses on breaking the cycle of poverty by targeting the children and focusing on their education and putting adults in safer environments, such as the provision of night shelter for some of Kingston’s street people at Bellevue Hospital, under a pilot project.
The Department is also treating some street people where they live, since experience has shown that removing them from their situation and placing them in a home often does not work.
“What happens is that many such persons simply go back on to the streets in a few days,” Mrs. Anthony said. “However, when we treat them in their locations, they often request to be put in a home after a while,” she added.
She noted that the Board is taking a new look at the profile of the persons in the infirmaries, as people come in for different reasons. Some persons who live on the streets in the days, and would otherwise be classified as ‘homeless,’ actually go home to sleep at nights. She also noted that in some cases, the infirmaries are used by relatives of inmates for security reasons.
“Some people have had to put their relatives in infirmaries, because they have nowhere else to leave them in the days and have no one else to take care of them. They have no choice,” she added.
“We are looking at the possibility of having people come in during the days and get picked up at nights, just like in a nursery,” Mrs. Anthony explained. The functions of the Board of Supervision are regulated by the Poor Relief Act (Section 9), as supervisory, advisory, regulatory, auditory, training appellate and inquiry. In 2000, the Board was mandated to provide oversight for the homeless in Jamaica. It supervises and monitors the delivery of Poor Relief by the Parish Councils and the Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation.