May 13, 2005
Government to address vagrancy issue

Two weeks after SEARCHLIGHT highlighted the plight of homeless persons on the streets of Kingstown; government has been spurred into action.

All boys living on the streets are to be relocated to the Liberty Lodge Boys Training School where it would cost the Government at least EC$10, 000 per year to care for one boy. {{more}}

Last Tuesday, Minister of Social Development, Selmon Walters, said while this is carried out, the probation officers in the Ministry of Social Development will be working in conjunction with the police to find the parents of the boys.

The minister pointed out that increased accommodations are being constructed at the Liberty Lodge Boys Training School to house 50 boys.

Currently, 24 boys reside at the home at a cost of EC$250, 000.

The cost of operations at the institution is expected to double as soon as the facility is completed.

Walters said the government would also give support to the St. Joseph’s Convent, Marriaqua for the construction of a girls’ home, which has already started. The Japanese Mission also supports this project.

The Minister disclosed that a proposal prepared by the Ministry of Social Development dealing with citizens living on the streets is before Cabinet for ratification and encouraged all parents and families to keep their children off the streets. He said the Ministry has been receiving complaints from many business houses about vagrants sleeping on their premises.

Walters outlined the business houses writing to Government, requesting that the vagrancy issue be addressed.

The Minister said the Government had charged his Ministry with preparing a proposal to deal adequately with people living on the streets.

He said complaints were not only forthcoming from businesses but from tourists also.

Walters said his ministry in responding to the government’s mandate, had proposed that accommodation be constructed either at the mental Health facility or the Lewis Punnett home to house people living on the streets.

He said he is hoping the projects mentioned will be completed by the end of this year.

Walters identified the causes of vagrancy in St.Vincent and the Grenadines as, the breakdown of the family structure and the use of illegal drugs, which take away their ability to reason well.

With regards to a crisis centre for females, Walters said government had bought the Bella Vista building at Kingstown Park to be developed as a home for battered women and girls. However, the project stalled after consultants from Ministry of Works recommended that the entire building be demolished because of termite infestation.