Front Page
May 7, 2021
Parents, guardians abandoning children, elderly at shelters

A plea has been made by Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves for people to demonstrate greater care to the most vulnerable in the population.

He was referring specifically to the elderly and children who,it is reported, are being simply left at shelters across the green zone.

Speaking this week on radio, Michelle Forbes, Director of the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) said that up to 50 pre-primary and primary aged children and teenagers, as well as elderly relatives, had been left at shelters sometimes for days, by parents and relatives. Some have actually been abandoned.  

Forbes, who was invited by Gonsalves to provide an update on last Monday’s (May 3) Eyeing La Soufrière programme on NBC, explained that these relatives are leaving their children and elderly relatives at the shelters for long periods and, in many instances the officials, including shelter managers, have no idea where the parents, or persons responsible for the elderly have gone.  

Forbes said when these parents and relatives return they claim that they had gone back to their homes to clean.

She said while cleaning is understandable, the point is that they must say where they are going, and it is not acceptable to leave children and teenagers unsupervised for days on end. The majority of persons evacuated and in shelters are from the red zone which has been declared to be off limits.

Further responding to the Prime Minister’s questions, Forbes pointed out that there are two shelters which house evacuees who are bed-ridden and these shelters have the service of home helpers.

Her fear is that some persons might not want to take their elderly dependent relatives back home after the current crisis is over and an all-clear given for persons to return.

Forbes added that evacuees have made requests for things like wheelchairs and hospital beds, and have threatened to leave their relatives if these items are not provided.

She said some of these things have been provided but people were still going away and leaving their relatives behind.

Noting that it is reasonable for people to ask for wheelchairs for their elderly relatives who have mobility problems, the PM appealed for persons to be more caring, and called on people who are demonstrating this type of behaviour to stop, and be more caring to those who need their help.

He said it is wrong to leave elderly persons and children in the care of strangers and at the mercy of other people you do not know.    

Dr. Gonsalves said he is appealing to the caring instincts of people and also asked that they communicate with the shelter managers. 

SEARCHLIGHT paid a visit to one of the shelters in Kingstown and found children and elderly evacuees left unsupervised by their caretakers.