JAM | Jun 1, 2023

Minister Desmond McKenzie calls for end to pattern of homeless abuse in Jamaica

Tamoy Ashman

Tamoy Ashman / Our Today

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In this 2013 photo, one of Kingston’s many homeless persons sleep along the side of a busy street as motorists continue on their daily commute. (Photo: CE Bick Photography)

Minister of Local Government and Community Development Desmond McKenzie says Jamaica has a disturbing pattern of abusing homeless people that has developed over the last two years, which needs to end.

He noted that between January 2021 and April of this year, 12 homeless men were, shot, slashed, or set on fire. Eight incidents took place in Kingston, one in St Ann, one in St Mary, and two in Portland. Only one person survived.

“It is a pattern of brutality. It is a pattern of outrageous incivility. It reflects badly on us as a society,
and we have a collective duty to care for our fellow citizens, whatever their circumstances, and
respect their right to life. Our development trajectory is measured by these social indicators as
much as our economic performance. We can and must do better,” said McKenzie.

Minister of Local Government and Community Development Desmond McKenzie, making his contribution to the 2023/24 sectoral debate on Tuesday (May 30, 2023) in the House of Representatives. (Photo: JIS)

The Minister was making his contributions to the 2023- 2024 Sectoral Debate in Parliament on Tuesday (May 30) when the issue was raised.

In response to the issue, the Minister said the Government will construct a new homeless Shelter in Ocho Rios. The project is estimated to cost J$18 million. Additionally, a J$24 million shelter is to be constructed in Falmouth.

He noted that the Government also planned to establish drop-in centres in Portland and Manchester. However, the plans did not materialize due to challenges in identifying suitable locations for
these facilities. He said the Ministry hopes to have work started this financial year.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness officially opens the new state-of-the-art Transitional Centre for the Homeless in Downtown Kingston, named in honour of former councillor and former mayor of Kingston, now Minister of Local Government, Desmond McKenzie. (Photo: Twitter @andrewholnessjm)

While updating Parliament on existing shelters, McKenzie noted that Phase One of the Transitional Centre for the Homeless at King Street in Kingston was completed at $40 million and is officially open. The centre houses an average of 35 homeless persons.

Phase two of the project will commence this year at J$30 million. It is estimated to provide housing to an additional 45 homeless people.

The Falmouth night shelter was also completed and opened on May 5. Additionally, work is continuing for night shelters in Ocho Rios.


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