The Government of Jamaica will continue to care for and develop appropriate infrastructure to accommodate Jamaica’s homeless population. This was declared by Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Hon. Desmond McKenzie, at today’s ceremony where 100 hand-washing stations were officially provided to the Ministry by Digicel Jamaica to promote public sanitary habits in the fight against COVID-19.
“Since 2016, this Administration has spent over $500 million on new and improved facilities for our homeless population, something that is unprecedented. We have constructed and put into operation six new Drop-In Centres. We have through the Social Protection Programme, been placing a special focus on the plight and the needs of our unfortunate brothers and sisters. This is why, though the buck stops with me as Minister, I am a bit perturbed by some of the comments in the public space, following the brutal killings and assaults of our homeless people in the Corporate Area last week. However, I want to assure all our front-line workers in the Infirmaries and the Golden Age Homes, the staff of the Municipal Corporations and the Mayors, that the work of bringing fundamental change to the lives of our vulnerable people through Local Government will not be stopped. COVID-19 has affected the pace of implementation of some of our infrastructure projects such as concrete and steel houses for the indigent, but we will meet our targets.”
The Local Government Minister also challenged critics of the Administration to voice any suggestions for improving the lives of the homeless population in a structured and credible way, stating that all good ideas will be strongly considered. “We tend to be vocal if and when an incident occurs, but in the normal business of everyday living, there is not much concern that is generally expressed about the homeless, the special needs of the homeless population, and they are not well understood. How we treat our vulnerable, including our homeless, is an indication not only of the services of the State, but also of the attitudes of our society. I am calling for a total overhaul in our perception of our homeless people, even as the Government works to improve their circumstances in practical and sustainable ways.”