Drop-in centre for the homeless to be opened in Ocho Rios
A drop-in centre for homeless persons in the parish of St Ann is to be opened in Ocho Rios in May.
Minister of Local Government and Community Development Desmond McKenzie is expected to open the centre, after participating in the regular monthly sitting of the St Ann Municipal Corporation.
Chairman of the St Ann Municipal Corporation and mayor of Ocho Rios, Councillor Michael Belnavis, said the town needs a facility to provide for the needs of persons who are homeless or facing challenges and in need of care.
"So, the humane thing to do is to create an environment where they can be cared for, washed or get a shower, clothed, medicated and, at the same time, given a hot meal. For phase one, it will be a drop-in centre. For phase two, we will accommodate some level of sleep-in," he noted.
Mayor Belnavis pointed out that the facility, although secure, will not be a prison, and every effort will be made to treat the 'guests' with respect, care, and love.
"It is not a prison. Yes, it is properly fenced and they are secured. There will still be those who will be roaming the streets, but they won't have to be going through garbage bins looking for food, as they will be given meals and they will be given a change of clothes," he said.
Mayor Belnavis pointed out that, currently, various civic and religious groups host programmes where food is provided for homeless persons, but the centre will take a more focused, sustained and stable approach to the care of the homeless in Ocho Rios and the wider St Ann.
"This is a good thing for the town. It allows us to do the caring that we as parish councillors bring to the table. That's what we do. We are social workers, and this is part of the social work that we do," he said.