Thu | Jul 19, 2018

End homelessness afflicting mentally ill

Published:Saturday | February 25, 2017 | 12:00 AM



Unite Jamaica People

Association of Business Persons

Homelessness is a typical example of how, as a people, we deal with issues of significant importance. Homelessness means that our victims have no permanent place to call home. The typical response is to periodically provide a meal, provide a night shelter, provide a few pieces of clothing (when convenient), and most important, take a camera along to capture the moment.

There have been loyal, dedicated caregivers who have become overwhelmed because of the lack of united support for their effort and sincere mission as the opportunists seek to overshadow with convenient selfie moments of interventions handing a 'box food'.

The time has come for a more comprehensive intervention to end homelessness in this very small country. We have a growing population of homeless persons on our streets. The numbers are today reported to be just about 2,000 persons. We must audit the mental capacity of these persons and make deliberate decisions regarding how we deal with the issues related to their circumstances.

Several of our homeless are reported to be of an unsound mind, however, homelessness has claimed many sane victims for one reason or another, who are still capable of occupation and contribution to society.

The Bellevue Hospital in Kingston sits on approximately 123 acres of prime land while housing approximately 500 hard-to-place persons on a permanent basis with approximately 1,000 admissions and processing annually. There is a staff complement in excess of 600 persons. Rationalisation for these ratios, including land and physical facilities, should have been an urgent matter decades ago.




The classification of the facility as a hospital seems to be a retardant in the process of rationalisation. However, the country can no longer afford to be stymied by sentiments and classifications of a facility that was developed in 1861 for the care of mental disease when it was known as the Jamaica Lunatic Asylum. The mandate of the hospital has significantly shifted, and it can no longer justify its role in a fulsome way.

Our first suggestion is for services of the Bellevue Hospital to be redesigned and relocated. This will require an audit of staffing and patients in the facility. By necessity, the method of assessing individuals would need to be reviewed.

The second suggestion is for the Government to identify approximately 300-500 acres of arable land suitable for residential and farming purposes that can accommodate a productive care and farmstead facility.

Third, a National Empowerment Shelter Transformation Programme should be established, with the Bellevue lands converted into a well-planned urban community.

Fourth, 50 acres of the property would be developed into a state-of-the-art mental-care facility with specially trained staff.