Businessman calls for collaborative effort to address street people
Carl Gilchrist, Gleaner Writer
OCHO RIOS, St Ann:
OCHO RIOS businessman Lesbert Thomas, owner of Mongoose Jamaica Restaurant, has called for a collaborative effort to address the problem of homeless people roaming the streets of the resort town.
Thomas' call came against a disturbing incident recently that threatened the viability of the popular restaurant.
A woman, who had taken refuge underneath a bridge across a gully adjacent to the restaurant, briefly put the facility at risk.
"The gully is used at times by homeless people. They use it for their bathroom, they use it to wash their clothes, they do everything there. It's their home," Thomas said.
He explained that a woman had taken up refuge under the bridge a few days earlier and was causing a stench that could soon jeopardise his business.
When The Gleaner visited the area, a stench was obviously coming from beneath the bridge. Along the side of the gully were clothes that were hung out to dry.
It is the same gully that runs adjacent to Sunset Jamaica Grand Resort and Spa. Questioned, the woman said she had nowhere to live. She said she had no choice but to seek shelter somewhere.
She, however, agreed to leave after the businessman asked her to. However, she returned several days later and was again told to remove. Once again, she did.
"Customers come in and I have to explain that what is behind the fence is beyond my control," said an obviously frustrated Thomas.
He said a united approach can solve the problem.
"I think the relevant persons or the relevant authority should come and do something because I know that we can do better. One person cannot move a mountain, but together we can move a mountain. I'm just asking for everybody to come together and let's do it together because we can actually make it work. I believe strongly in that."
Last year, Mayor of St Ann's Bay Desmond Gilmore, in acknowledging the nuisance and danger posed by street people, and indeed in consideration of their own safety, initiated a move to create a halfway house for them, using the premises at the former Windsor Girls' Home in St Ann's Bay.
Contacted, Gilmore said the move by the St Ann Parish Council to gain control of the premises has been stalled as the previous occupiers are yet to formally hand over the premises to the Ministry of Land.
He explained that when this is done, the parish council would apply for use of the premises. Until then, the project is stalled.
Gilmore said the idea of a halfway house is to create a place where homeless people can take a shower and have a meal but would not be able to occupy on a full-time basis.