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SPECIAL FEATURE: The stories of the homeless

OCHO RIOS, St. Ann: “Good treatment, love and care” is why 26-year-old Jessica Daley continues to visit the Ocho Rios Drop-In Centre in St. Ann.

Here she receives meals, medical attention and engages in recreational activities with peers. The mother of two girls, who is a native of Chester Castle in Hanover, has called the resort town home more than five years ago.

“I lived with my grandparents and thy dies when I was 15 years old and I moved to Ocho to live with family and try to get a better living,” she said.

While all her dreams did not materialize, she decided to deal with the hand that life had dealt her and started selling juices on the streets of Ocho Rios to earn a living.

She was unable to properly care for her children and the girls’ paternal grandparents decided to become their legal guardian.

Jessica has a roof over her head but is unable to buy food. Last October, she suffered a stroke that affected movement on the left side of her body.

“Dem treat me very good here at the Centre where I come to get food and clothes.”

In between therapy sessions at the hospital, Jessica is already eyeing a course in housekeeping when she regains use of her entire body.

The Ocho Rios Drop-In Centre is centrally located in Buckfield, St. Ann and caters to the basic needs of vulnerable persons including the homeless and mentally challenged.

Like Jessica, 60-year-old Byron Gilzene also accesses the services at the Ocho Rios Drop-In Centre. His story is one that saw him working as a customs broker in Kingston before he ‘relocated’ to Ocho Rios when he entered a drug detoxification programme at Teen Challenge (located on Milford Road at the time).

He relapsed, and several times after, and the streets became his home.

“It was a rough time for me as I was now homeless and destitute and living on the streets,” shared the well-spoken man. “

According to Mr. Gilzene, his church family at the Shaw Park Assembly of God introduced him to the Drop-In Centre where he is treated with respect.

While he still battles with addiction, he wants to resuscitate his landscaping business by sourcing some tools for his trade. He now takes care of the grounds at the Ocho Rios Drop-In Centre.

He is also happy that a homeless shelter is now at the Drop-in Centre and will provide the environment for safety and relaxation.

“I will definitely be sleeping there as I was violated on the streets. People are cruel to the homeless. I was ridiculed and abused,” Mr. Gilzene added. “I went back to Teen Challenge recently to get help and it will be different this time around.”