Nedburn Thaffe, Gleaner Writer
Mayor of Kingston Desmond McKenzie received a tongue-lashing on the weekend from several of downtown Kingston's homeless, who accused him of feeding them with empty promises to construct a multimillion-dollar drop-in centre, which has been on the drawing board of the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation (KSAC) for some time.
Last month, McKenzie, during an annual Christmas dinner put on by the KSAC for the city's homeless and indigent, cited a stand-off between the municipal authority and the developer as the reason for the stalled project. The mayor then noted that this year he would be soliciting assistance from corporate sponsors to have the centre up and running before he demits office.
On Saturday, during an annual New Year's Day dinner put on by the KSAC and the Digicel Foundation, McKenzie, in another attempt to soothe the anxiety of the city's homeless, told the men and women that he would be doing everything in his power to have the centre up and running.
"Whether I have to creep, run, jump or fly, one commitment I have is that this centre is going to become a reality," the mayor noted, while using the opportunity to call for corporate sponsorship.
However, some of those who turned out in droves along a section of Church Street to take part in the yearly feast were obviously unmoved by McKenzie's promise. This time around, several homeless men and women quietly heckled the mayor over his plans for the structure.
"Every year him deh yah a mek big promise. Dem nah do nothing fi homeless people," one man noted, much to the agreement of a few of his companions.
"Wha mek him neva call mi up deh fi talk mek a know weh fi tell him? Him nah do nothing fi wi! A pure big chat him have," another frustrated man noted before unleashing a trail of expletives.
Another homeless man, who identified himself as Rodrick Messam, commended the mayor for hosting the yearly event, but added that they needed more than just food.
"Wi need fi si some more action. A long time now dem promise wi shelter and all now," Messam noted, adding that he and his brother have been living on the street for more than five years.
The 60-year-old, who told The Gleaner he grew up at the Maxfield Park Children's Home, said he has given up on all hope of seeing the drop-in centre become a reality.
Messam said he was now taking his chances at getting into a golden-age home.