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A home in crisis - Indigent people could be put out on the street if no help comes

Published:Friday | January 29, 2010 | 1:00 AM

Nadisha Hunter, Gleaner Writer

Street people in Clarendon could be forced to go back to the streets if financial difficulties continue to cripple the Clarendon Association for Street People's (CLASP) effort to refurbish the place they call home.

The housing facility was ordered closed on Tuesday with immediate effect by the health department in the area.

Acting Medical Officer of Health for Clarendon, Dr Kimberly Scarlett-Campbell, said she was forced to issue the closure notice, as the condition at the home was unsanitary both for the staff and the inmates.

"I was of the impression that the health and safety of the workers and inmates were at risk and so I was forced to act on their behalf," she disclosed.

Campbell said unless the facility carries out repairs, remedial actions or relocates to a suitable location, the facility should remain closed.

But that worries the board of directors who worked feverishly to keep the home afloat.

No available facility

Ray Wilson, a member of the board, said conforming to the health department's order was a challenge, as there was no avail-able facility for the individuals to take up lodging.

Causing more concern is the fact that the persons housed at the facility are all mentally ill.

"They are mentally ill and they can't manage themselves so it would be hard to turn them out on the streets and we don't have anywhere to put them, so it is a challenge at this time," he said.

"In addition, there is the potential for violence because they have a history of behavioural problems," he added.

Wilson said he was uncertain of what to do because getting the facility to the health department's required standard was impossible without funding.

The organisation is a voluntary group, which survived solely from good Samaritan contributions, but Wilson said these were meagre funds, which could hardly support the daily operations of the home.

He, however, remained optimistic about the future of the society as he pleaded to the public for assistance.

"We are in need of assistance for the home because we can't afford to do it," he said.

He said it will cost about $550,000 to renovate the dwelling.

Mayor of May Pen, Milton Brown, said though the home does not fall within the parish council's portfolio, it recognised the plight of the institution and was trying its best to address the situation.

He said the council would be putting in its support as early as today.

However, he noted that the council did not have the volume of funds to assist, so it may have to seek the public support.

CLASP has been in operation since 1997 and is currently the home for 16 persons. It is closely monitored by the Department of Co-operatives and Friendly Societies in accordance with the Friendly Societies Act. The Clarendon Parish Council provides the premises to CLASP and pays for its utility bills.

Persons wishing to donate can do so at FirstCaribbean account #8-640-2410 or contact the institution at 986-6902 or email claspjamaica@cwjamaica.com