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Reformed street dwellers: We will never return

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Marijuana, cocaine and alcohol addiction led three men into a downward spiral that left them jobless and homeless. Speaking at the Ministry of the People and Social Development, St Vincent Street, Port-of-Spain, yesterday, three former street dwellers, now rehabilitated, want to stay off the streets.



Dexter Cole, a former geriatric nurse, Brian Jack, a former Housing Development Corporation employee, and Shane Parson are now in the second phase of rehabilitation at the Piparo Empowerment Centre (PEC). The centre provides rehabilitation and skills-training for former street dwellers. They said drugs and alcohol caused them to abandon their jobs and live on the streets. Parson said he was reunited with his son and several family members but alcohol was his life for over 40 years.


“If they put both together, I would take the rum and not take my wife. Rum can’t give you Aids, it can’t horn me, it can’t leave me. It can only take me to my grave,” he said. Parson said since then his wife had left and he was comfortable living on the street. The only problem was that he had no shelter. He added: “My mother died and she cried for me many times but she never lived to see me turn around. 


“I used to live in a cardboard box. People used to pee (urinate) on me. I used to go in the river and bathe. I used to wear dirty clothes. Children didn’t want to see me. Many times I had to look for shelter when it rained.” “Nevertheless,” he said, “it was comfortable. I would get something to eat or somebody would give me something to eat.” 


Jack said he abandoned his job when he started to use cocaine. His advice to others now is: “Don’t take the first pull. He added: “I abandoned my job because of that thing. This is my first Christmas drug-free. I want to get myself into society and live my own life. “The cocaine affected me tremendously. I lost my work at HDC. I was using cocaine while I was three months on the job.” 


Cole said the approach used by the ministry’s Inter Agency Unit was more subtle than brutal tactics and the threat to take them off the streets. He said he was physically and verbally abused when he was younger and did not take his time at school. 



“I was hearing children getting attention at home and that caused me to make an untimely decision to take drugs. Patience is a great master. Don’t be hurry. I wanted to grow up quick. Apply patience,” he said. Minister of the People and Social Development Dr Glenn Ramadharsingh said there were 1,150 street dwellers and 425-460 of them lived in Port-of-Spain. He said whenever a campaign was mounted to get them off the streets there was usually a reduction of between 30 and 35 per cent in street dwellers.


Yesterday, the ministry continued its exercise to remove street dwellers in Port-of-Spain. Some 165 people have been removed from the streets, the ministry said.


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