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Ocho Rios gets $22m night shelter

OCHO RIOS, St. Ann: A $22 million night shelter to serve the resort town of Ocho Rios, St. Ann and its environs is officially opened for operations.

The building, which is sited in Bucksfield, Ocho Rios, was opened by Minister of Local Government and Community Development, Honourable Desmond McKenzie on August 18.

The homeless shelter was constructed to the adjoining Ocho Rios Drop-in Centre and can sleep 13 men and seven women at a time. It will provide temporary shelter, meals, and bathroom amenities.

“The drop-in centre since it was established, we not only take them in and give them medical care and look after their needs, but we also try to rehabilitate them,” said Minister McKenzie.

Data from the Poor Relief Department points to the successful rehabilitation and reintegration of five homeless individuals into permanent employment. One of the Ocho Rios Drop-In Centre residents is pursuing a certificate in agriculture at Ebony Park Heart Academy.

According to Byron Gilzene, the homeless shelter will help him escape the violence on the streets.

“To contribute to homeless persons is a blessing. I was hospitalized two weeks ago and almost died from wounds inflicted by being homeless sleeping in the bus park. It gives me great enthusiasm that this place, that is now my home, will be protecting me,” he shared.

Mr. Gilzene also assists with the landscaping works at the new facility.

The Minister also disclosed that the town of Brown’s Town, St. Ann, which has a growing number of homeless individuals, is on the Ministry’s radar.

“Our next port of call will be the Brown’s Town area to see if we could put in something…that would deal with the issues there.”

Additionally, Minister McKenzie shared that the Government has allocated over $100 million in social security for the poor and destitute in St. Ann for the 2023/2024 fiscal year to deal with homelessness and improving the lives of vulnerable citizens.