Wed | Sep 27, 2023

MoBay deputy mayor wants transitional centre for homeless after murders

Published:Friday | September 15, 2023 | 12:08 AMChristopher Thomas/Gleaner Writer
Councillor Richard Vernon, deputy mayor of Montego Bay.
Councillor Richard Vernon, deputy mayor of Montego Bay.


MONTEGO BAY Deputy Mayor Richard Vernon says that discussions are ongoing at the St James Municipal Corporation (StJMC) to develop strategies for reducing the parish’s homeless population. The projections include creating a transitional centre to help homeless people reintegrate into society.

In an interview on Thursday, immediately following the StJMC’s monthly meeting, Vernon said that the corporation’s Poor Relief Committee has been discussing strategies to benefit the homeless.

“What we want to achieve is not more homeless persons on our streets to deal with. We want to reduce the number. ... We made a decision that we are going to put a task force in place, which will help us to address the situation to reduce the numbers of homeless people, and we will have social workers working on that task force,” said Vernon.

“We have our drop-in centre and our care centre, and through those facilities we help to reduce the impact of hardship on these persons. So we provide meals on a daily basis, we bathe them, and we treat them with medication so we can have a better situation out there. But we will need a transitional centre ... to reintegrate [them] into society so that ... [they can] live in a dignified manner,” Vernon added.

He was responding to an earlier call from St James’ Acting Senior Superintendent of Police Eron Samuel, who urged the StJMC’s meeting to seek the expansion of facilities for the parish’s homeless residents in order to prevent physical attacks on such individuals.

“We had a series of murders that took place [in Montego Bay], and we tried to keep it down based on the trend that we recognised because we never wanted to create public panic about persons going and killing homeless persons within the parish. We set up a task force that dealt with it, and I am pleased to announce that we captured that killer and have since charged him with four counts of murder,” Samuels told the meeting.

He was referencing the murders of five homeless people in sections of Montego Bay between July 28 and August 20 this year, with all the victims having reportedly been stabbed with a sharp instrument while they were sleeping.

The police have since charged a suspect, Ronaldo Ricketts, in connection with four of the five murders, and he is to appear in the St James Parish Court for those charges on September 20.

Ricketts reportedly confessed to the attacks after he was taken into custody on August 30 for allegedly attempting to abduct and rape a woman while posing as a taxi operator.

In the meantime, Vernon emphasised that not all homeless persons are on the street because of mental health issues.

“There are genuine situations [of hardship], and we are trying to understand the phenomena and to see how best we can understand those situations,” he said.