With over 100 homeless people said to be living on the streets of the capital, Bridgetown, the local charity which cares for their plight has issued a manifesto, urging all political parties contesting this year’s general election to make a pledge to stamp out homelessness for good.
In the two-page document entitled, Homeless Does Not Mean Voteless, founder-president of the Barbados Vagrants and Homeless Society (BVHS) Kemar Saffrey called for a serious commitment to be made to improving the lives of those who currently live on the streets.
“The BVHS is at present inviting all political parties planning to run in the upcoming general election, to take note of its Homeless Manifesto, designed to facilitate the care and protection of the most vulnerable homeless persons in Barbados. This manifesto will be forwarded to all parties for their consideration, ahead of the election,” Saffrey said.
He specifically pointed out that the number of homeless people had more than doubled since the ruling Democratic Labour Party took office in 2008 and instituted a series of “tough economic policies” which have resulted in over 100 vagrants sleeping on the streets on any given night.
“Homelessness and sleeping on the streets have scaled to a national level. But as the leading homelessness organization, we know that change is possible with the election of your party,” Saffrey said.
“We call on your political party to make a clear manifesto commitment to an ambitious new national initiative to end homelessness,” he stressed, adding that effective action on this scourge needed strong leadership and coordinated work across Government and community organizations, including the Psychiatric Hospital, health agencies, the Welfare Department, police and housing agencies.
Saffrey wants which ever party that forms the next administration to embrace the BVHS’ Homelessness Reduction Proposal and to embed homelessness prevention priorities across key Government agencies, to guarantee the early intervention required.
He suggested that such an intervention should include a shelter to accommodate all persons currently living on the streets.
“This initiative must also tackle chronic homelessness and vagrancy by allocating a building to be used as a 24/7 shelter with Government providing funding and technical assistance, with additional support to tackle the mental health crisis [which is] keeping people stuck on our streets,” he said.
He also called for annual funding for the BVHS and housing solutions for vagrants.
“Housing solutions should be accompanied by a personalized package of support – and adequate support with housing costs through the benefits systems, such as the Welfare Department and the National Insurance Scheme – to ensure people do not return to the streets,” he added.