The charity that looks after the nation’s homeless says it is bracing for a significant rise in homelessness when Government begins its cuts to public sector jobs.
President of Barbados Vagrant and Homeless Society (BVHS), Kemar Saffrey, told Barbados TODAY that for the last five years homeless numbers steadily rose as a result of increased hardship.
He argued that it would be nothing short of delusional to think that a spike in the numbers was not inevitable, once Government’s structural adjustment fully implemented under the International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme got underway.
“This is something that we are very worried about because we have seen it when the last administration sent home a lot of persons from Government. There is going to be a serious strain on our organization, which is already stretched by the number of people coming to us for food and clothes. Anybody who thinks that the coming austerity measures won’t be a problem, is only naïve in their thinking,” said Saffrey.
“Many landlords are not going to wait until these persons get another job, so some of them are going to become homeless… It can get bad but I don’t know how bad it is going to get because I do not know the full extent of the austerity,” the BVHS head pointed out.
He explained that in 2014, when the then Democratic Labour Party (DLP) trimmed the public sector by an estimated 3,000 persons, some of those persons joined the homeless statistics, causing it to spike in 2015.
“I warned the Minister at the time [former minister of Social Care Steve Blackett] and I assume he didn’t understand anything about social work because he ignored what I [predicted] even though it came to pass . . .
“In 2015, the numbers were the highest in terms of the amount of persons that became homeless; it was really bad, because we had 117 new persons becoming homeless that year,” he said.
The total count of homeless people on the island now stands at over 500, with women and children accounting for 116 of them, he said.
But the homeless persons advocate told Barbados TODAY that he does believe that the impending displacement is going to be as bad as it was in 2015, mainly because of Government’s promise to put measures in place to look after those hardest hit by the job cuts.
“This current administration seems to be putting things in place to cushion the impact, which is good and may ease a serious increase but there is still going to be some fallout. The Government is working to help those from a bottom level and I have heard a few programmes that would be put in place and that may take some of the pressure off us as well as other services such as the Welfare Department,” he stressed.
Earlier this month, the Mia Mottley administration revealed that workers from a number of statutory corporations would be severed as part of the second phase of Government’s Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation programme (BERT).
In releasing the results of an online survey last week on the restructuring of state-owned entities, one of Mottley’s key economic advisers, Dr Kevin Greenidge, said while he could not say precisely how many workers would likely be displaced, of the 40-plus statutory bodies identified in the survey, “at most about 1,000” of a total 2,823 employees would be affected. firstname.lastname@example.org