You are here
More young men on Sando streets - broken marriages, relationships to blame
The upward surge in divorces and breakdown of common-law relationships are being blamed for the increase in the number of homeless people inhabiting the streets of San Fernando.
And, even more alarming are the ages of the men who are homeless and being forced to find comfort on the streets because of their circumstances.
According to Trevor Brathwaite, manager of Court Shamrock, a huge percentage of his intake of homeless people come from homes where marriages have ended.
“Young men from broken marriages, men whose wives have told them to leave their home account for a large percentage of street dwellers,” Brathwaite told the T&T Guardian.
Court Shamrock is a San Fernando home which provides refuge for displaced and homeless men. The centre was started in October 1999 and was an initiative of the San Fernando City Corporation.
Brathwaite said over the past few years the age of displaced and homeless people had been decreasing among men between the ages of 20 and 21.
“This is a trend which we have noticed, the number of homeless persons are getting younger and younger,” he said.
He said it was only in December that nine divorced men were living at Court Shamrock and, before this, young people were flooding the streets and flocking to the centre seeking shelter.Brathwaite said the young men are seeking temporary reprieve while at the same time trying to grapple with what is taking place in their lives.
However, while Social Development Minister Glenn Ramadharsingh recently unveiled a multi-million-dollar plan to deal with the homeless and displaced around the country, including Port-of-Spain and San Fernando, Brathwaite admitted their success has been hampered by lack of proper resources.
“The lone psychologist we have can only do so much. He works for us pro bono and has his hands full on a daily basis. One needs to keep in mind that these young men are not accustomed to being on the streets, so they will need assistance emotionally,” Brathwaite said.
Adding that other factors such as deportation, poverty, financial crisis, mental illness, drug addiction, fire disasters and elderly abuse have also contributed to the rise of homelessness in the southern city. Brathwaite said children wanting their parents to leave home and live elsewhere has also contributed to the increased numbers.
“We have a lot of elderly people who come to us because their children have evicted them from their own home and because the parents are elderly, they oblige,” he said.
During the Budget debate last year Ramadharsingh said Government would pend $16 million to rid the streets of Port-of-Spain and Chaguanas of homeless people.
The plan, the minister said, would run for a six-month period in the first instance.
San Fernando mayor Dr Navi Muradali has meanwhile said he has plans to launch an initiative called, “Help the City, Help the Homeless.” This campaign will be aimed at rehabilitating homeless people in the southern city.
The mayor said under this initiative, businesses in San Fernando will be asked to get their customers to make financial contributions, which will be given to shelters in San Fernando, like Court Shamrock, to help with the rehabilitation process.
He said there are approximately 45 street dwellers in San Fernando and during the month of December, the city council was able to get ten of them rehabilitated.
Life on the street is especially tough these days, said Brathwaite, owing to an increase in violent incidents. “Gangs are now beating on vagrants. Three or more people are doing this and the vagrants then run to us for shelter. It is a question of survival out there. You have to sleep with one eye open,” he said. “For them to survive on the streets each day without being subjected to harm is nothing short of a miracle.”
Noting that he and several of the individuals who have been rehabilitated often patrol the streets in San Fernando in a bid to persuade vagrants to enter the facility, Brathwaite said from the statistics gathered, some vagrants are mentally unstable and thus need medical intervention.
“We cannot afford to pay for a full-time psychologist. Families of vagrants also need counselling in an attempt to be integrated back into the family circle,” Brathwaite said.
The centre can currently accommodate 40 men. “We don’t discriminate. The facility is not opulent, but we do the best we can with the limited funds we get,” he said.
In the past, several drug addicts had entered the Rushworth Street Extension, San Fernando compound with guns, since the centre has been plagued with a lack of proper security arrangements for office staff.
Brathwaite said as it stands now, people who work at the centre are not highly compensated, but they genuinely want to make a difference.
“We are a family, and we have established protocols,” he said.
• Part Two: What is being done to tackle the homeless and vagrancy problem in San Fernando will be published in tomorrow’s T&T Guardian.
What is Court Shamrock?
The Centre for Socially Displaced Persons, Court Shamrock, provides a shelter for displaced and homeless men.
For years it has provided a mechanism through which men affected by various social problems, such as drug abuse, can be rehabilitated and reintegrated into society. In addition to providing shelter, there are also various skills training programmes to ensure that beneficiaries are given the expertise and other assistance necessary to lead normal lives
The University of the West Indies had in the past supported the organisation's startup of a welding programme.
Chairman and founder of the centre is Dr Edmund Chamely, while Trevor Brathwaite manages the centre.
Since its inception, the facility has received a $21,000 subvention from government, but normally operates on the goodwill of donors and also United Way.
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.