Mayor of St Ann’s Bay, Councillor Sydney Stewart has announced that homeless persons in St Ann will soon have a comfortable place to lay their heads, as a $21-million homeless shelter being constructed in Buckfield, Ocho Rios, is nearing completion.
Stewart told Jamaica Information Service that the building, which is an extension to the Ocho Rios Drop-in Centre, is 95 per cent complete.
Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Desmond McKenzie, announced the shelter’s construction in May 2021.
The facility will provide temporary shelter, meals, and bathroom amenities for seven females and 13 males.
“It is equipped, right now, with furniture, except for the offices. The additional work to be done is just landscaping, [minimal] grill work, and installation of a grill gate that will take us to the entire completion of the homeless shelter,” Stewart said.
He said the facility, which is the first of its kind in the parish, should be ready for official use within another two weeks based on an assessment by the St Ann Municipal Corporation’s technical team.
“We are at the point of setting a date for opening, where the Honorable Minister and other officials will be coming to do an official opening. So, in two weeks, we should be ready,” he said.
The Mayor, who chairs the Municipal Corporation, said special provisions will be made for street people with mental health conditions.
“We are taking in all those people on the streets. So, it doesn’t matter what your mental condition is because, of course, there are doctors who will come to the centre to check on these people regularly. Once you are homeless and you’re identified by us, we will allow you at the drop-in centre. So, you can come for a meal, and you can leave if you want,” Stewart said.
“But others who come and want to stay overnight, we have accommodation for 20 of them,” he added.
The Mayor also shared that the drop-in centre continues to meet the daily basic needs of approximately 70 homeless people in St Ann.
“As it stands now, we’re able to feed these people daily. We are able to give them three meals, breakfast, lunch and supper in the late evening. We give them a change of clothing and they get some medical checks,” Stewart added.
There are approximately 90 homeless people in the resort town of Ocho Rios, and more than 100 across the parish of St Ann.