Ministry struggling to get vehicles, buildings to tackle homelessness


A pedestrian walks past a homeless woman on Frederick Street, Port of Spain, on November 25, 2020. – SUREASH CHOLAI

Of the resources needed to effectively tackle homelessness, vehicles and buildings to assess and treat street dwellers were among the top picks, according to officials from the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services on Monday.

Speaking during a meeting between the ministry and the business community at the Dr Linda Baboolal Room, Cabildo Chambers, on St Vincent Street, Port of Spain, permanent secretary in the ministry Jacintha Bailey-Sobers said vehicles to transport homeless people from the streets to the shelters were needed for the work of her ministry.

She said the ministry has been unsuccessful in getting the vehicles.

“This is very critical not only for research but the vehicles are necessary for temporary care and even primary care.

‘When we identify people on the streets who are willing to move and get assistance or even when the mental health people go out on the field and the person needs to be taken to one of our facilities one of the major areas of lack would usually be a vehicle so this is a critical element of the work we are doing and the provision of service.”

Bailey-Sobers also said while the ministry was successful in getting the approval for a building in Carapo to use as a centre for the homeless, they have had difficulties in securing permission to use some buildings as centres for assessment or temporary housing.

She also noted that there were several buildings across TT that were being sought by the ministry to treat with homeless people.

“The Ministry has been working over the years, every time we identify a building as an assessment centre usually the building is given to another entity for another purpose and sometimes we do face some issues with the residents in the area and so on.

“We are looking at (the building) at the corner of Duncan Street and Independence Square in Port of Spain so we also have that building that we are hoping to get approval for an assessment centre as soon as possible we are looking at the next month or two.

“We also have some possible buildings in Couva, Mausica in La Horquetta and also right in here in Port of Spain we are looking to get a building in Fitzgerald Lane to see whether we will be able to use it for transitional housing.”

For her part Social Development Minister Donna Cox said assessment centres were crucial to any plan to tackle street dwellers as it would be used to determine what assistance individual street dwellers were in need of.

“Not everyone who is a street dweller has a mental health problem some simply have nowhere to go which is why we need to have these assessment centres up and running to determine what kind of care individual street dwellers are in need of.”

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