Govt. to construct $400M centre for street people

Kaieteur News
December 30, 2006

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The government is to construct a centre at a cost of $400 million to accommodate street people in Georgetown as part of efforts to beautify the city for Cricket World Cup (CWC).

President Bharrat Jagdeo made this announcement on Thursday while addressing reporters at his end-of-year media briefing. He also stated that a design for the building has been completed, but stopped short of giving a timeline as to when the building will be completed.

There has been a public outcry to the administration to implement a system to rid city streets of vagrants and persons of unsound mind, some of whom may pose serious risks to the public.

The government has given a promise to take care of the street people, especially with CWC matches slated to bring an influx of visitors to Guyana .

Yesterday Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Priya Manickchand, said that a site for the proposed building is yet to be identified. Several other Ministries, including the Ministries of Health and Home Affairs, will be part of the process that caters for the street people.

She added that the move to rid the streets of vagrants is not directly linked to the hosting of CWC, but is part of a wider effort by the government to address the age-old problem.

Minister Manickchand noted that in the first instance, persons will be taken off the streets and taken to the hospital where they will receive a meal and a bath.

She added that an evaluation will then be conducted to determine the health status of the person and where treatment is necessary; the Ministry of Health will take full responsibility.

Acknowledging that drug abuse is a contributing factor to some persons finding themselves on the streets, Minister Manickchand alluded that part of the drive is to provide counselling and care to persons with the hope of reintegrating them into the society.

However, there have been legal hurdles to the way in which street persons will be taken off the streets. These stem from the classification of mentally ill persons to the method that will be implemented to take them off the streets.

“We are prepared to move to the court to defend our actions and we will do so in the absence of the right legislation,” Minister Manickchand stated.

She noted that the ministry has found cases where the families of street dwellers are willing to accept them back into the family fold. The minister noted that this is a welcome sign.

Alluding to continued efforts to address the homeless and destitute who roam the streets, she noted that the Night Shelter located in East La Penitence has been upgraded to a full shelter, operating on a 24-hour basis and providing three meals a day to residents.

She noted that it was necessary to move in this direction since many persons using the shelter during the night returned to the streets, often enduring hours without food and shelter.

“This shelter is being used to provide housing and food for many and we have expanded the services to include counselling,” Minister Manickchand stated.