Chairman of the Committee for the Homeless, Dr. Winston De La Haye, says the shelter programme for the homeless is having a significant impact on their lives.
"We've had a number of successes and we're encouraged to do the work. We’ve had homeless persons who've been placed in facilities who are now engaged in rearing small animals, as well as the production of eggs and some other food products for their own use," he said.
Speaking at a JIS 'Think Tank' on August 28, Dr. De La Haye said that the shelters, although challenged by limited resources, have been able to assist many homeless persons.
Shelters are operated through the collaborative efforts of the Committee and several private sector entities and faith-based organisations.
Dr. De La Haye explained that as a result of the success of the programme, the Committee is working to establish at least one shelter in each parish, and is appealing to other private sector companies and interested stakeholder partners to collaborate with the Committee in this endeavour.
"We need more of these. Obviously this isn’t something that the Government alone will be able to fund, and so we need the assistance of the private sector,” he said.
For his part, Homelessness Co-ordinator, Damion Campbell, pointed out that several of the centres even had classes, and that in addition to the income generating skills, persons have been taught literacy and numeracy skills.
"This is something that we’ve seen work in centres already established, such as the Portland rehabilitation centre, the Westmoreland Association for Street People, the Ebenezer Home in Manchester and the Marie Atkins Centre in Kingston. We have seen where individuals have been rehabilitated and are able to now function normally and assist themselves,” he noted.
Meanwhile, Dr. De La Haye pointed out that the shelters in the parishes would be managed by local sub-committees. "The driving force will be these sub committees within the parishes. There will be 22 members, including (representatives) from faith based organisations, the private sector, and others, including the Government,” he added.
The Chairman said that the ultimate goal is not housing, although that is important, but rather, it is to encourage self sufficiency among the homeless.
“If we can teach individuals through occupational therapy, which is included in the places of shelter where these individuals are housed, then that certainly augers well to empower these homeless persons to have a skill, so that they can eventually remove themselves from their homelessness,” he said.
Dr. De La Haye emphasised that re-establishing contact between family members is also crucial for the development of the homeless.