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Jamaica Gleaner - - FRONT PAGE - Bar­bara Elling­ton Pub­lic Af­fairs Ed­i­tor bar­bara.elling­ton@glean­erjm.com

FROM UPTOWN to mid­town and all the way down­town in the is­land’s cap­i­tal, the home­less could yes­ter­day be seen oc­cu­py­ing their ‘own spot’ in plazas, along side­walks, and un­der trees. Come rain or shine, they are usu­ally left to the el­e­ments and are oc­ca­sion­ally fed by kindhearted in­di­vid­u­als or spe­cific char­i­ties.

FROM UPTOWN to mid­town and all the way down­town in the is­land’s cap­i­tal, the home­less could yes­ter­day be seen oc­cu­py­ing their ‘own spot’ in plazas, along side­walks, and un­der trees. Come rain or shine, they are usu­ally left to the el­e­ments and are oc­ca­sion­ally fed by kindhearted in­di­vid­u­als or spe­cific char­i­ties.

With the an­nounce­ment by Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Min­is­ter Des­mond McKen­zie on Sun­day that the home­less would be placed in shel­ters to ride out Hur­ri­cane Matthew, The Gleaner toured some of their usual haunts in the Cor­po­rate Area to see what ob­tained.

Be­tween Heroes Cir­cle and Re­gal Plaza in Cross Roads, we spot­ted five home­less men. We saw three more in New Kingston sleep­ing in front of shut­tered and boarded-up cor­po­rate of­fices.

Half-Way Tree was abuzz with side­walk ven­dors ply­ing their wares, but not far from them, there was one home­less man out­side An­swers Gift and Home, one at the Sagi­cor Bank, and four oth­ers close to the trans­port cen­tre.

The Gleaner saw sev­eral more along the way to the Marie Atkins Shel­ter down­town, where we were told by In­spec­tor of Poor Mavis Far­quhar­son that a team had re­moved 20 home­less per­sons from Sil­ver Slip­per Plaza alone on Sun­day.

“We brought 44 of them to this and other shel­ters, but af­ter sleep­ing the night, they left early Mon­day morn­ing be­cause they said they did not want to lose their spot on the road,” Far­quhar­son said.

From Con­stant Spring Road to Half­Way Tree Road on to Slipe Road, New Kingston, and down­town ar­eas, The Gleaner counted close to 60 home­less per­sons, in­clud­ing women.

The home­less seemed to in­stinc­tively know where to find refuge, whether it was close to the Holy Cross Church, the pave­ment in front of Cap­tain’s Bak­ery, the steps of Carib 5, or at strate­gic spots around St Wil­liam Grant Park. Many were sim­ply walk­ing on side­walks, their frail frames bur­dened by their few earthly pos­ses­sions. Oth­ers hud­dled in cor­ners along King Street and on the steps close to Jus­tice Square.

OBLIV­I­OUS TO DAN­GER

Many seemed obliv­i­ous to the im­pend­ing dan­ger, but ac­cord­ing to Far­quhar­son, while the 115 shel­ters in op­er­a­tion are equipped to feed them at least twice daily, they can­not force them to stay long af­ter they have eaten.

Also su­per­vis­ing op­er­a­tions at the shel­ter was Mayor Dr An­gela Brown Burke, who said the Kingston and St An­drew Cor­po­ra­tion had been pre­par­ing to house the home­less as well as do­ing dis­as­ter-mit­i­ga­tion work since June, in­clud­ing clear­ing blocked drains.

“We also have teams on standby to clear drains if they are blocked be­cause of flood­ing. The shel­ter man­agers have been trained and we have a to­tal of 115 shel­ters ready for open­ing,” Brown Burke said.

And, on the ques­tion of feed­ing those housed in shel­ters, the mayor said it was not their in­ten­tion to feed per­sons when they come in be­cause there would not be enough food for all, but they would get food when their per­sonal sup­plies ran out.

“Per­sons have been told to bring their medicines, wa­ter, food, blan­kets, and toi­letries with them,” she said.

We brought 44 of them to this and other shel­ters, but af­ter sleep­ing the night, they left early Mon­day morn­ing.

NOR­MAN GRINDLEY/CHIEF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

This home­less man slum­bers, seem­ingly un­aware of Hur­ri­cane Matthew at Premier Plaza, St An­drew, yes­ter­day.

A home­less man spot­ted in dream­land along Barry Street, Kingston, yes­ter­day.

Mavis Far­quhar­son (left), in­spec­tor of poor, at the Marie Atkins Shel­ter, and Mayor Dr An­gela Brown Burke speak to The Gleaner along Hanover Street yes­ter­day.

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