Candle in the Dark set to expand
With a 150 per cent increase in the number of persons seeking assistance at the Candle in the Dark Ministries since 2018, the Manchester-based facility is embarking on an expansion project with a night shelter to accommodate the influx.
Chairman Wendy Freckleton said the first phase of the completion of the structure will be made possible through the donation of materials from Moorlands Development, financial aid of US$1,600 from Jamaica Association in Switzerland, US$1,000 from FirstCaribbean International Bank, and donations from Dale Greaves-Smith of Sagicor.
However, with the building and furnishing of the space set to cost close to $1 million, Freckleton is appealing to those who can assist to jump on board and help champion the cause of the providing for the underprivileged.
“ ... We found that when COVID hit, the homeless people really didn’t have anywhere to sleep, and sometimes the ones that are mentally challenged, we are not able to merge them with other persons we have here immediately ... . Hence this project,” she explained.
Freckleton said that a tent provided by the Manchester Municipal Corporation, which previously housed the clients in the nights, was destroyed by heavy rains and there is now the need for a permanent structure.
With a tentative August 31 completion date, the space is expected to accommodate 10 additional persons up from the 22 it now provides shelter for.
Migrate from other parishes
According, to Freckleton, the number of homeless persons on the streets of Mandeville has increased significantly.
“Seventy to 80 per cent of the persons are not from Manchester. These persons migrate from other parishes ... . An average of 60 persons use the facility each month, up from 40 in 2019, and over 80 persons since the start of this year. That is a dramatic increase for any population,” she said, adding that the demand for the shelter’s services is expected to increase.
“ ... Persons come in for a meal, bath or a change of clothing. Different people come for different reasons, but since COVID, we find that we are not only catering to the homeless, but people who don’t have any food at home or have anyone to prepare food for them are coming in ... ,” said Freckleton.
The organisation also launched an outreach programme, where cooked meals are delivered to persons in the Greenvale community by caretaker Andrew Smith.
With a need for more staff – to include psychiatric aides – among other resources, and a total of $400,000 to fully complete and retrofit the new night shelter, Freckleton is encouraging those with resources to help the facility as there are always needs.
“This is not something we can do on our own because we don’t have income-generating activities,” she explained. “What we are trying to do is not just to provide shelter and food, but to look after the the complete persons to see how we can help to empower them.”
Main sponsor and vice president of the Jamaica Association of Switzerland, Donna Hill, who was present at the ground-breaking ceremony on Friday, said her hope is that the shelter will get the assistance it needs to support the communities it serves.
The centre currently accommodates drop-ins, those in transition from the street to reintegration in society, and provides shelter for the homeless and mentally challenged.
To assist the facility, contact Candle in the Dark Ministries Chairman Wendy Freckleton at 876-881-5968.