A taste of humanity for MoBay’s homeless
With the dark days of the disgraceful Street People Scandal of July 1999 now a fading memory, as was the case last year, the new generation of homeless persons occupying the streets of Montego Bay recently got a taste of true humanity, thanks to the Street People Liberation Organization (SPLO), a group of young people who developed a programme in 2013 to assist them.
On Tuesday, April 7, the 16-member SPLO group, which comprises students from Herbert Morrison Technical High School and the Montego Bay Community College, were out on the streets delivering food and other basic needs to all the street people they encountered.
"We distributed boxes of clothes to the St James Parish Council's care centre (located on Lawrence Lane), prepared and distributed pastries such as sandwiches, puddings and cakes, and served cooked lunches from the kitchen to the less fortunate clients of the centre," said SPLO president Ashli-Ann Broughton.
The volunteer caregivers, who drew favourable comments from passers-by, happily interacted with the approximately 170 persons who benefited from their kind gesture. For the group, it was just a simple case of living up to their mantra, which is, 'If you can't feed a hundred people, just feed one'.
In speaking to their most recent effort, Broughton said their initial aim was to feed approximately 150 homeless persons, comprising the needy individuals at the parish council's care centre and the other unfortunate persons occupying the sidewalks in downtown Montego Bay.
"The aim was to feed approximately 150 people around the surrounding area," Broughton said. "Ultimately, the goal was met as approximately 170 persons were fed within the lunch room of the care centre, as well as on the streets outside the centre."
For their latest effort, the Herbert Morrison Technical High School and the Montego Bay Community College were assisted by students from the Montego Bay High School and the Petersfield High School, in Westmoreland, who saw the need to support the effort.
"Our volunteers are teenagers who want to make a change in the west," Broughton said. "Even though it (facing off with some of the mentally ill) was quite scary at one point, the volunteers managed to serve all the persons inside and outside the centre. At the end of the day, we spoke to some of them (the street people) and we had some funny conversations."
Since its inception, the SPLO has stood firm in its mission to reach out to Montego Bay's street people populace, and as leader, the 18-year-old Broughton, who founded the group when she was a Grade 10 student of Anchovy High School, said they intend to stay true to their mission.
"I was vice-president of the tourism action club at Anchovy High, and a group of us started a discussion, during which, the burning issue of the high number of street persons in Montego Bay came up," said Broughton, who is pursuing a pre-university arts degree at the Montego Bay Community College and intends to pursue a law degree at the University of the West Indies.
"It was the discussion that opened my eyes, and I realised that there were projects geared at assisting street people that teenagers could do in Montego Bay."
According to Broughton, the group initially started out with just 10 members, and because of their commitment to the cause, they have managed to stay together and to extend themselves into other areas.
"We first started out with a volunteer team of 10 students from five different high schools in Montego Bay, including Cornwall College, the Montego Bay High School for Girls, Mt Alvernia High School, Anchovy High School and Irwin High School," Broughton added. "We managed to stay connected and have since helped other charities and churches in the city in their outreach in the different communities."
With this year's effort behind them, the members of the group will now head back to the drawing board to commence plans for next year as, according to them, there will be no letting up in their bid to make a difference in the lives of the less fortunate.