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Battered, blind and begging - A St James beggar’s tale of woe

Published:Sunday | December 13, 2015 | 12:00 AMOkoye Henry
Cordell Yheast
Cordell Yheast

At a point, Cordell Yheast was on top of the world as it seemed everything right was happening in his life.

At that time, Yheast was the loving father of a seven-year-old daughter, was going on dates regularly, was furthering his education, and was enjoying a developing career in computer and phone repairs.

But his life took a tragic turn in October 2012, when the then 37-year-old was attacked and savagely beaten and chopped by two men in his community of Cambridge, St James.

The attack left him blind in both eyes, and from that point, his life took a downward turn.

In short order, the now blind man lost his job, was evicted from his house and had to take to the streets of Montego Bay to seek a living by begging.

"That evening, I was coming from a date, and on approaching the Cambridge Square, I came out of a taxi, and was attacked and chopped all over my body," said Yheast.

"I have no clue why I was attacked. We were friends before, so it was a bit surprising that they attacked me," added Yheast, who spent an extended period in hospital where doctors saved his life, but were unable to save his sight.

It was not long after that Yheast found himself out in the cold on the streets, unable to provide for himself or his daughter, who is now 10 years old and living with her mother.

"It's funny. I had just completed a course in IT (information technology) ... and started doing some repairing work on laptop and cell phones. Things were working out for me because I had a lot of customers.

"Now I am being abused physically, mentally and verbally everyday. Sometimes people believe that once you begging you are a lowlife and deal with you anyhow.

"I am stressed. I can't have a good relationship with my daughter because I can't maintain her life. I have medication problem and no money to fill my prescription at times," said Yheast.

He noted that a regular day sees him waking up at a plaza where he sleeps in Montego Bay and going to a restaurant to buy breakfast with the money he gets from begging. He then heads to a facility to take a shower and finally makes his way to his usual spot outside the Bay City Supermarket to beg.

"I really want somewhere to live. People always tell me that I am blind, so I am going to burn down their place, or they tell me they live on a hill and I can't walk up a hill," said Yheast, who claimed that his family members are in no position to help him.

"I would not mind if (Prime Minister) Portia (Simpson Miller) could help me," added Yheast.

As for the two men who attacked him, one is before the courts while the other is being sought by the police.

But Yheast said he has information that the second attacker is still in the Cambridge community as he charged that the police have not been proactive in their attempts to capture him.

"I am just hoping for a light at the end of the tunnel, but I want to thank all he people who have assisted me over this time," said Yheast.

According to Yheast, he has failed to get any help from major government or non-government organisations despite seeking aid.

He told our news team that shortly after finding himself out on the streets, he sought help at the St James Parish Council and was told that if he could get a piece of land, the council would could contact Food for the Poor to provide housing assistance.

Efforts to get a comment from the council were unsuccessful last week while Joy Crooks, administrator at the western Jamaica-based Committee for the Upliftment of the Mentally Ill, said she was unaware of his plight.

Psychiatrists at the Cornwall Regional Hospital said while they were aware of Yheast, they could offer him no help as their focus is on persons with mental-health issues.