Minister of Local Government and Community Development, Hon. Desmond McKenzie, says safeguarding the welfare of the homeless is a priority for the Government during the hurricane season, which begins on June 1.
Speaking at a digital town hall on Thursday (May 28), Minister McKenzie informed that shelters are being equipped to accommodate persons living on the streets, should the need arise, noting that all systems are in place to respond to any eventuality during the period.
He noted that there are about 2,500 individuals living on the nation’s streets.
“They are the ones who are vulnerable and are exposed to the elements. Therefore, we are putting the necessary infrastructure in place so that we can take them off the streets into a shelter until the worst has passed,” Minister McKenzie said.
He noted that by the end of this year, all parishes will have a drop-in centre to cater to the needs of homeless persons.
Thirteen have already been built and the final facility, being constructed in Linstead, St. Catherine, is 75 per cent complete.
“We are currently undertaking one that was not a part of the original programme. So, we are now building one in Linstead because of the need within that part of St. Catherine, where there is a large constituent of homeless population. We do have facilities across the municipalities to house persons on the street, and we continue to feed these persons,” Minister McKenzie pointed out.
He noted that as part of the coronavirus (COVID-19) response, the Government has ramped up support for the homeless, with more than 30,000 care packages distributed within the last five weeks.
He said that a large number of person continue to utilise the drop-in facility located on Church Street, downtown Kingston, during the nightly curfew implemented by the Government as part of measures to contain the spread of the virus.