Home in the arcade! - Parish Council steps up efforts to move squatters out of People’s Arcade
A public health official is warning that persons living in the People's Arcade in Montego Bay, St James, are putting themselves at serious risk.
Medical officer of health for St James, Dr Derrick Ledford, said that the lack of proper living facilities at the arcade makes it unsafe for persons to turn the property into a residential area.
"I am aware of the situation at the People's Arcade ... for people to be living there now, you expect to talk about, first of all, the conditions available there for personal living," Ledford told The Sunday Gleaner.
"Do they have the proper bathroom facilities, for example? Are people able to use bathroom facilities properly? Are they able to dispose of their garbage in a proper way?
"We are thinking of body waste; for example, you talk about faeces. Is there a sewage system there? I am not sure what is there ... they have issues there, and it (People's Arcade) was not planned for that purpose."
Within the last five years, the owners of several businesses at the People's Arcade have been in disputes with the Railway Corporation of Jamaica, which owns the land on which the arcade is currently sited.
There were also efforts by the St James Parish Council to relocate vendors into both the Arcade and the Charles Gordon Market in an effort to reduce congestion in the town.
Last weekend, representatives of the St James Parish Council and other stakeholders staged a walk-through of the facility, where it was discovered that individuals had transformed some of the shops at the Arcade into dwellings.
The dumping of household garbage and other waste in the nearby gully was also highlighted, an issue which poses a serious health risk to persons plying their wares in that section of the city.
Now, Ledford says the facility is in need of cleaning to prevent disease outbreak.
PROPER FACILITIES NEEDED
"If people are living there, then optimally there would have to be improvements in the facilities to accommodate personal living, so we are concerned about it. They would need to clean up the place ... but it was not made for that purpose," said Ledford.
"We have breeding of rats, leading to leptospirosis, and the throwing of garbage all about the place, and also the Zika virus and chikungunya ... we really want to see that place cleaned up as soon as possible," Ledford added
In the meantime, Deputy Mayor of Montego Bay Michael Troupe has announced that the People's Arcade will be temporarily closed.
"The first thing that is now on the table is to make a recommendation for the People's Arcade to be closed for four weeks, and then we are going to move in and identify the original owners for the shops.
"For those persons who cannot claim a shop, my recommendation is that we push down those shops, as those are the spaces that persons from all over are using as dwellings," Troupe told The Sunday Gleaner.
"The persons who are doing business presently in the arcade, I don't see a problem with them," Troupe added. "The only thing is that the persons who are living in there now. I already told them that they need to take a month and find somewhere to live."
Speaking to the current conditions in the arcade, Troupe made a call for several agencies to come in and rectify the issues in the facility.
"On the public health issue, there are so many little restaurants and cookshops over there, and we are going to make sure they are compliant with the public health standard. We are also going to ask the member of parliament, Heroy Clarke, to do some drain cleaning and make sure that, going forward, the arcade is used for its original purpose," said Troupe.
"The Jamaica Public Service Company also needs to come in, and so does the National Water Commission, because everything over there is illegal. With the way they dispose of their garbage and their waste, and the way they connect their water and light, everything over there is a time bomb waiting to explode," Troupe added.