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The plight of T&T’s homeless

Published: 
Thursday, November 2, 2017

The very real problem of homelessness in T&T has been brought to the fore this week in two cases—a homeless man’s failed legal bid to gain access to Tamarind Square and the worrying matter of the Erica and Wendell Joseph who have taken up residence in the Queen’s Park Savannah.

These cases are not identical but vividly highlight the lack of options for hundreds of less fortunate citizens in this country.

The decades-long issue of vagrancy, which successive Port-of-Spain Mayors have failed to resolve, seems to be getting worse, with hundreds of pavement dwellers scattered around the city and environs.

They comprise the genuinely homeless—people who have fallen on hard times, as well as drug addicts and the mentally ill—all in need of interventions if they are to have any chance of turning their lives around.

The case of the Josephs is more complex since they have taken up residence in the Savannah more than once claiming problems of one kind or another with the accommodations provided to them by the Housing Development Corporation (HDC). However, it is significant that they could find no place else to go but the open space of the Savannah.

While there has been talk of building proper facilities to house these less fortunates, the harsh reality at present is that the available options for shelter are barely fit for human habitation. The Centre of Socially Displaced Persons, located in the Riverside Plaza car park on the outskirts of Port-of-Spain, is a squalid, smelly eyesore that offers very little chance of rehabilitation for the few who manage to get space there.

Homelessness isn’t a problem only for the homeless. It is an intractable social, economic and security problem that cannot be resolved only by the state. Corporate T&T should step in to help.

A far cry from our glory days

Social media has been rife with reports and reactions to the dispute between local Miss Universe franchise holder Jenny Douglas and former delegate Yvonne Clarke, who was stripped of the title in controversial circumstances just days after being selected to go to the international beauty pageant which takes place in Las Vegas in a few days.

Also caught up in fray is soca artiste Fay-Ann Lyons-Alvarez who had been assisting Clarke to prepare for the pageant. Mrs Lyons-Alvarez got involved in mobilising funds and getting tangible support for Ms = Clarke, who from all accounts, had been without funding of any kind and had been single-handedly, with little time to spare, trying to prepare for the pageant.

The current controversy has led to inevitable references to past editions of the pageant and more successful involvement by representatives from T&T under the guidance of the legendary Kim Sabeeney and more recently, Peter Elias, Dean Akin and other former franchise holders.

Given this country’s past successes, with Janelle Commissiong and Wendy Fitzwilliam winning that coveted crown, it is such a shame that the local leg of the pageant has now come to this.

New man in charge of Tobago tourism

Yesterday Louis Lewis was introduced as the first Chief Executive Officer of the newly established Tobago Tourism Agency. Mr Lewis brings to the position vast experience in the industry, with an impressive track record at the Saint Lucia Tourist Board where he held several senior positions. Hopefully this will translate into success in turning around the industry in Tobago.