A growing number of Barbadians is at risk of becoming homeless.
Making the disclosure yesterday, chairman and founder of the Barbados Vagrants and Homeless Society (BVHS), Kemar Saffrey, said this was particularly so in the case of females and young adults who were turning to his charitable organization for assistance.
Saffrey gave a short presentation at the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association’s (BHTA) quarterly meeting where he pleaded, on behalf of his organization, for a deepening of the partnership and greater assistance.
Noting that it took about $700,000 for the organization to carry out its programmes every year, Saffrey said “with the economic downturn, that seems like a very hard task to reach”.
“We are seeing a very high increase in terms of ladies with children who are becoming homeless. We are seeing a lot of women with children coming for assistance,” he said.
Noting that there has not yet been a full assessment of noticeable trends, Saffrey said he could not say what the figures were at the moment or which parts of the island most persons at risk of becoming homeless were residing.
However, he told Barbados TODAY that an initial assessment showed that the majority of those who faced homelessness were having difficulty paying rent mainly due to the loss of employment.
He said too that a number of extended families with one or two breadwinners were finding it difficult to make ends meet.
“I have also had some persons come to me and say that they were in top positions in Government and in other jobs and they lost the position and because of that, they are soon to become homeless,” he said.
“You have a lot of the soon to be homeless coming to us now for either assistance in terms of how can we better accommodate them. A lot of them are able-bodied (and) are asking mostly ‘could you find me a job, I am willing to take everything and anything now’. So the job loss and the economic downturn are the major issue that surrounds the reason that people are now soon to be homeless,” he explained.
Saffrey pointed out that while there were no homeless children because of the various homes and agencies that were available to assist, there was an increase in young adults who were becoming homeless.
“It is becoming very worrisome for the organization,” he said.
“A lot of the women and children are coming as well. . . . I am frightened to say that I may see Barbados taking a swing in terms of the young adults becoming homeless. I wouldn’t say from the kindergarten age but in terms of the 16-year-olds because that is the age of consent and you can do certain things without parental consent. . . .That is very scary to see,” he said.
Saffrey said the organization’s 24-hour shelter, expected to be operational by the end of this month, should assist. He is not disclosing the exact location, except to say that it will be in the Bridgetown area.
Explaining that a homeless person is different from a vagrant, Saffrey hastened to add that although the organization could do so much to help, there would always be homeless people because of the economic conditions and also because many persons who have been living on the streets for decades did not wish to leave.
He said those who did not want to leave the streets still benefited from periodic health checks, referrals to the psychiatric hospital, and breakfast every morning.
Saffrey said between 2011 and today, the BVHS had rehabilitated and reintegrated 50 individuals into society, having helped them to get employment, open bank accounts and reconnect with families.