Thursday 5 December, 2019

Homeless numbers projected to hit 1,000 'very soon'

Kemar Saffrey, Incoming Curator of the Global Shapers Bridgetown Hub and President of the Barbados Homeless and Vagrant Society.

Kemar Saffrey, Incoming Curator of the Global Shapers Bridgetown Hub and President of the Barbados Homeless and Vagrant Society.

The number of homeless persons and vagrants in the country is rising steadily and President of the Barbados Vagrants and Homeless Society (BVHS), Kemar Saffrey, is of the view that number will hit four digits in the near future.

Saffrey, the incoming Curator for the Global Shapers Bridgetown Hub, was one of the panellists at a Youth Forum on 'Barbados Economy: Youth Perspectives' hosted by the Global Shapers Bridgetown Hub at the Olympus Theatre this morning. On the question of how the soon to be implemented tax measures would affect the vulnerable ones in society, Saffrey said he believed more persons will be turned out onto the streets as a result of these measures.

In last month’s Budget, Minister of Finance, Chris Sinckler, announced a number of revenue-earning measures projected to raise over $500 million. They include a ten percent National Social Responsibility Levy (NRSL), a two percent commission on foreign exchange transactions and an increase in the excise on fuel.

Global Shapers Youth Forum

Saffrey told the audience he believed Government has given little to no thought as to how those in the lower income brackets will be adversely affected by the measures.

“When Government looks at enacting policies I don’t think that they look at the most vulnerable persons. We hear about putting $3 million more to welfare but if you already have a backlog of people requiring welfare assistance, you really think the ones that are now coming onto the streets will get the assistance before the ones that you have a backlog of?”

He said that between 2008 and 2012 the number of homeless persons had risen significantly from between 40 to 50 persons in the past to two to five persons a day presently. He projected that number will reach 1,000 homeless persons of which many will be women and children.

“The serious increase of homelessness started between 2012 and now. We increase taxes, we add new measures that would affect households. If you send home a man that is a breadwinner of a home and taking care of five people, including children, that is five people that can become homeless. I predict that you will have an increase of homelessness and we will hit the 1,000 mark very soon. The most hurtful part is that they are children, youth and women, which are more vulnerable than the men and there are actually women sleeping on the streets who are pregnant.”

Saffrey added the BVHS will do what it can with its resources to assist these people and attempt to keep the number down but he noted there has not been much assistance offered by Government in finding housing for homeless persons and on the occasions that they do help, it often takes years to materialise. 

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