CHAIRMAN of the Barbados Vagrants and Homeless Society (BVHS), Kemar Saffrey, says if his organisation is given the houses, he can get vagrants off the streets of Bridgetown.
Saffrey said there had been an increase in homelessness as a result of the economic downturn, with more people coming onto the streets as a result of their inability to pay rent. Others, he said, were former convicts or deportees.
And many of them were young and able-bodied men.
“You’re still getting the older folks but there is an increase in younger persons and these younger persons are able-bodied persons who were either part of Government programmes; they’re either eagerly looking for jobs or just coming out of prison,” Saffrey said.
But, said the chairman, the society was hamstrung by a lack of space.
“Obviously, we can’t do a lot as we would like to. Right now the organisation is helping as many persons in terms of shelter placement,” he said, adding that other organisations which operated shelters were, to his knowledge, filled to capacity.
“Our capacity to be able to rehabilitate persons is low because we don’t have sufficient homes to do it.
“Once we do have sufficient homes, we can do it because we have a 98 per cent success rate in rehabilitation.
“So we believe if we were to be given one or two more houses from Government or some person out there who is willing to give us a house to use, we can see more and more persons turned around, especially from the homeless stage where it would be more beneficial.
“We would be able to catch them at an early stage, rather than catch them when they’ve gone as far as a Ninja Man or Ahmed.”
Saffrey recalled he was recently walking through Bridgetown and witnessed Ninja Man “jumping up in front of a tourist’s face and shouting in the tourist’s face, and you have the tourists walking away”.
And he said the BVHS could prevent such acts from occurring.
The chairman said the society had its eye on a building in The City that would serve as a major rehabilitation centre.
“We are trying to put together a campaign to buy this property that would be able to do a massive shelter, be able to do the rehabilitation.
“If we are able to buy this facility, we would be able to assist the National Assistance Board and we could clear 50 men and 20 women off the street.”
That building, stressed Saffrey, would be the society’s way of combating the homeless situation.