HEATHER-LYNN’S HABITAT: Saffrey sees rise in City vagrants
IF YOU THINK the vagrant problem in Bridgetown is bad now, wait until six months from now.
This is the dire prediction from president of the Barbados Vagrants and Homeless Society, Kemar Saffrey, who was responding to an article in a recent Daily Nation highlighting the vagrants who had taken up nightly residence around the historic Mutual Building on Lower Broad Street.
“It is going to be a serious problem in another six months because there are some that you are not seeing. After 11 o’clock, midnight, it’s the young ones you’re not seeing. The ones who come out late and leave early because they don’t want anyone to see them.”
Saffrey said vagrancy in Bridgetown was “worse than you think it is”.
“With limited space and limited resources, there will be a growing, a vast escalation the longer you leave them on the streets,” he said.
And then, there was the possibility that every doorway could become filled with homeless people. But the possible increase in homeless people need not be, he insisted.
“We do believe we have the solution to the problem. We’re looking at purchasing a building with corporate help and public help,” Saffrey said. “Our belief is that you do need somewhere big and do need somewhere in Town.”
But it would take a philanthropic person to donate money or part proceeds so the society could buy the building which would serve as the resting place for the homeless. Or, better yet, some philanthropic person could give them the building.
“We have pinpointed the old Gems Travel building which is up for sale. The [Police Force’s] Certificate of Character [office] moved out, so only the travel agency is in there. That is adequate to do what we want,” he told Heather-Lynn’s Habitat.
“So even though the organisation has assisted in the rehabilitation of many people, more and more people are popping up.”
The cost of the building? $1.7 million.
The president admitted the scheme had never been tried locally but the idea had worked other countries.
“But that would be a solution. I’m not saying everybody would come off the streets, but 80 to 90 per cent would come off, especially the young people.
“So if anyone has a place in Town that they believe would be able to assist these gentlemen, that would be greatly appreciated. . . . .”
Meanwhile, the charity was the recent recipient of canned breakfast items and a monetary donation from the Accounting Students Association (ASA).
Saffrey’s executive assistant K’neka Hope said the donation was appreciated since it would help with the society’s breakfast programme. It feeds between 30 to 40 people every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
“We’re also trying to implement a programme to assist persons who are not a part of the organisation because we have a food bank. So we want persons who are in situations where they have just lost their home or who have become homeless, to avoid homelessness so they can come in and get whatever food we can provide to them,” she said.
President of the ASA, Raphel Bascom, said the donation was part of their community outreach in the 2016 week of activities.