Homeless and vagrants not prepared for Hurricane Isaac
(left) President of the BVHS, Kemar Saffrey and Case Manager, Kim Yearwood.
With just two business days to go before the first major weather system approaches the island, hundreds of homeless men and women may be in danger if shelter cannot be secured for them.
The Barbados Vagrants and Homeless Society (BVHS) has petitioned government and disaster management agencies to assist with outfitting a building with beds and other furnishings to house the homeless during the passage of Hurricane Isaac.
Saffrey said the BVHS had sought permission and funding to use a building as a permanent shelter. He said the hope is that a funding arrangement can be fast-tracked to allow the society to retrofit the building by Wednesday to provide a “safe and warm environment” for the homeless to weather out the hurricane.
Saffrey expressed concern about the lack of policy to deal with the homeless during natural disasters and emergency shutdowns.
“Previous governments have not put in place any policy to remove homeless of the streets for safety reasons so that flying objects don’t hit them. You need to protect those who are sound in mind and those who are not.”
He said in the past, his team would have transported the homeless persons in the Bridgetown area and housed them at the offices of the BVHS but considering the growing number of homeless in the City, now close to 80 persons, Saffrey said it was imperative that these ones have their own facility.
Saffrey said while there are hurricane shelters around the island, there were not many in the immediate Bridgetown area. He also said some of the homeless, due to their level of vagrancy, sometimes had issues accessing the emergency shelters and some personnel were not always equipped to deal with those with special conditions such as mental illness.
“We have tried this for ten years... the previous administration did not listen and many persons were affected by being on the streets, some were injured.
This is an appeal to them [government]. We have a building, it is already hurricane-proof. We need it to be retrofitted urgently to get these persons off the street.”
He revealed the Society would need around $18,000 to retrofit the building, noting it will not be a wasted investment as the BVHS intends to use the building on a long-term basis.
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