KINGSTON, Jamaica: International World Homeless Day (WHD) will be observed on October 10.
The Ministry of Local Government and Community Development’s Board of Supervision (BOS), through its Poor Relief Departments, has planned several activities islandwide to mark the day.
These planned activities include open houses; information and sensitization sessions on homelessness; road marches, mini concerts; wellness fairs; and sporting events.
According to www.worldhomelessday.org, the purpose of WHD is to draw attention to the needs of people who experience homelessness locally and provide opportunities for the community to get involved in responding to homelessness.
It further states that while taking advantage of the stage “an international day provides to end homelessness through improved policy and funding”.
The inaugural WHD was marked on October 10, 2010. It has been observed in every continent except Antarctica in dozens of countries.
This observation locally is used to highlight the needs of persons experiencing homelessness and provide opportunities for the community members and stakeholders to get involved in responding to the needs of these individuals.
It is against this backdrop that the theme ‘Do Better, Let’s End Violence Against The Homeless’ was coined. Unfortunately, media reports indicate that some 13 homeless persons were killed between 2021 to 2023.
The BOS is empowered by the Poor Relief Act of April 29, 1886 to ensure that appropriate care and assistance is provided to indigent and poor persons islandwide. It was also given the mandate by virtue of the Commission of Inquiry Act July 15, 1999, to coordinate homelessness initiatives with a view to end chronic street homelessness in Jamaica.
A person is considered homeless if he/she, resides in a care facility for the homeless or in places not meant for human habitation such as cars, parks, sidewalks, and abandoned buildings.
As the oversight body for homelessness, the BOS is instrumental in organizing, monitoring, and providing direct services to persons experiencing homelessness. These services are provided through the Poor Relief Departments in all Municipal Corporations.
The homeless programme is active all year round in each parish with services ranging from a meal programme to having transitional housing geared at rehabilitation and reintegration for persons experiencing homelessness.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO ASSIST
• You may contact one of the following agencies on behalf of persons experiencing homelessness (Poor Relief Department, Registrar General Department, Legal Aid).
• Volunteer at a Drop-In Centre or Night Shelter
(Host a class to teach various lessons to include Hard & Soft skills).
• Provide job opportunities or refer persons experiencing homelessness to job opportunities
• Offer professional services for free, such as barbering, grooming, and legal advice
• Become an advocate for persons experiencing homelessness
• Treat them with compassion and kindness