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Minister eyes $25m for development
The Government is expected to spend close to $25 million as it moves to cut the homeless population by half. Minister of the People and Social Development Dr Glenn Ramadharsingh says his ministry already has $10 million for the establishment of a healthcare facility, the upgrade of the Centre for Socially Displaced Persons (CSDP) and a new drug rehabilitation centre.
Speaking at a Christmas breakfast for drug rehabilitation patients (former street dwellers) at the Piparo Empowerment Centre (PEC) yesterday, he said he needed about two years to reduce street dwelling by 75 per cent. “I think we will be able to really ensure that the streets are safe, clean and happy if we can pick up delinquents,” Ramadharsingh said. “If all of these things take effect, we will only have the people who are loitering for financial gain.
“Those who are really there as street dwellers by day but are mystery by night, we will get rid of those people. “I don’t want to be so utopian, but what I can say is that I want to, at least, get 60 to 75 per cent of the street dwellers off the streets. I need two years again and I am confident that before the end of 2014 I will be at more than 50 per cent.”
Ramadharsingh said the healthcare facility will take the place of an abandoned building at Queen Street, Port-of-Spain, and will be able to shelter 150 street dwellers overnight. “It will be a care centre: no serious medical procedures will be done there, just basic upkeep and maintenance to ensure that they are clean and healthy. “This will take care of paramedical issues and will be overseen by the IAU (the ministry’s Inter Agency Unit) and qualified medical personnel.”
The upgrade to the CSDP at Riverside Plaza, Port-of-Spain, will feature designs that were drafted for the building under former UNC housing minister John Humphrey. Ramadharsingh said the upgrade will ensure that “people live in a dignified environment that is more humane than what exists now.” He said: “It will be an intermediary between those who need drug rehabilitation and those who are just homeless.” He said the new drug rehabilitation building was also in the planning stage.
After the formal aspect of the breakfast was finished, the minister rolled up his sleeves and served breakfast to a group of men who, before this year, sat on pavements begging for food and money. However, yesterday’s gathering showed a different picture as the former drug abusers revelled in the festive season, singing medleys of Christmas carols for their peers and caretakers.
Ramadharsingh paid tribute to three patients, Joseph Alleyne, Dexter Ramirez and Charles David Eno, who were recommended by the PEC for reintroduction into society. Alleyne, 57, spent two years in the programme after 27 years of drug abuse. Eno, 59, of Port-of-Spain, also spent two years in the programme after 21 years of drug abuse, and Ramirez, 54, from Couva, completed his treatment in 18 months after 20 years of substance abuse.
All three are now employed under the Unemployment Relief Programme’s social section through the ministry’s Off the Street: Big Brother Counselling Initiative. Ramadharsingh said over the last 30 months, the IAU had removed 165 homeless people from the streets, with 12 of them already reintroduced into society. He said they were employed and are now paying their own rents.
He said there were 57 others undergoing rehabilitation at the Transform Life Ministries.
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