You are here
Mayor still to register critical success
In April, Mayor Louis Lee Sing announced that he would not be seeking a second term of office. That’s certainly one rationale for his approach to getting things done while in public office, where he has wasted little time on making friends or stepping gently on contentious issues.
In September 2011, he went toe to toe with the Water and Sewerage Authority over the ownership of lands at Westmoorings. Before Carnival this year, he tried to get glass bottles banned in the city during the festival days, backing down only when it became clear that there were no laws supporting the move.
Mayor Lee Sing faced down angry PNM councillors in March over party and procedural matters then steadfastly remained in office. The Mayor scored one crucial victory on Friday night in one of his most public missions when the Environmental Management Authority shut down three nightspots on Ariapita Avenue in Woodbrook for noise pollution infringements.
Still, Mayor Lee Sing is still to register a critical success in one key issue of his tenure, managing homeless persons in the city environs. In November 2010 the Port of Spain City Corporation picked up 84 men and two women and brought them before Magistrate’s Court. Some were freed, some were granted bail and some were remanded to the St Ann’s Mental Hospital. The next day, homeless persons were on the streets.
In mid-July, another effort to collect street dwellers in the city faltered when just 14 police officers showed up for a night policing exercise. Instead of the 200 persons he hoped to detain, the Mayor had to settle for 30. The matter is clearly close to Mayor Lee Sing’s heart and these results must be frustrating, but that’s no reason for irrationality.
On Thursday, the Mayor accused the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) of wilfully contributing to the population of homeless persons at the Port of Spain City Corporation’s monthly statutory meeting. According to Mayor Lee Sing, one person he spoke to had been evicted from a George Street apartment by the HDC and moved to temporary residence at the Centre for Socially Displaced Individuals.
The Mayor described this as a strategy to remove children from the homes they had grown up in after their parents pass on. HDC Managing Director Jerlean John denied these accusations, describing them as “awful” and “disingenuous,” claiming in turn that the Corporation had systems in place to manage the situations he described.
While the HDC has not been a model landlord, it would be unfair not to note the openness of the Corporation’s operations under the management of Ms John and its willingness to acknowledge fault and set matters right. Given that, it’s unfortunate that Mayor Lee Sing sought to try this matter in public before having a discussion with the HDC.
As he will undoubtedly have found by now, the challenges involved in managing the homeless population are daunting. If the Mayor is willing to visit Charford Court to investigate one case, he should also review the status of residency at the Centre for displaced persons, where temporary stays continue longer than they should and the challenges at the New Horizon facility in Piparo.
The problems with the homeless can’t be dealt with by a hasty roundup. There are as many reasons for persons becoming homeless as there are cases to be dealt with, and managing the issue means managing hundreds of people with problems that range from addiction and abuse to mental incapacity.
The success of any effort to manage the homeless must acknowledge the daunting richness of the problem and go beyond camera-ready tragedies to craft solutions that go beyond capture and housing to a lasting rehabilitation of these challenged citizens.
User comments posted on this website are the sole views and opinions of the comment writer and are not representative of Guardian Media Limited or its staff. Guardian Media Limited accepts no liability and will not be held accountable for user comments.
Please help us keep out site clean from inappropriate comments by using the flag option.
Guardian Media Limited reserves the right to remove, to edit or to censor any comments. Any content which is considered unsuitable, unlawful or offensive, includes personal details, advertises or promotes products, services or websites or repeats previous comments will be removed.