Ninety homeless women, children and men will move into new high rise luxurious living quarters at month end.
Last night, The Barbados Alliance to End Homelessness (BAEH), formerly known as the Barbados Vagrants and Homeless Society (BVHS), officially opened the new Homeless Shelter and Rescue Mission in the multi-storey complex on Spry Street, The City, and announced that it was here to stay.
President and founder Kemar Saffrey told the “by-invitation-only” ribbon-cutting ceremony which included Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson, Cabinet ministers, Opposition Leader Bishop Joseph Atherley, President of the Democratic Labour Party Verla DePeiza and sponsors, that thanks to the Maria Holder Memorial Trust, the new $10,000 per month rental home would be paid up for a limited time only. He said after that, he would need all hands on deck to carry on the payments.
And he issued an impassioned appeal to all Barbadians and residents to help his organisation buy the three-storey building which he said Republic Bank had offered to sell them for $1 million dollars within three years, down from a previous offer of $2.4 million.
Saffrey said if ever Barbados needed such a facility it is now.
“You all don’t hear the stories of the women and children that sleep on the streets…and when they come, they come with two and three children. And it is heart-breaking to see the men that are on the streets that are getting worse and worse. This (shelter) is needed in Barbados; and this has to be here to stay,” he declared, adding that “it is not a Kemar Saffrey thing…it is all of us.
“It needs to stay. You need to keep it here. If I dead and gone along, it still needs to be here…don’t let it die and go along with me,” he implored the attendees that also included Ruchelle Roach of the Maria Holder Memorial Trust and Selena Hayle of the US-based Citygate Network, both major funding partners of the local homeless charity.
Tracing the struggles of the non-profit organisation which is now in its 10th year, the young leader promised he would not be turning
back but will fight to the bitter end to help all homeless individuals the best he can.
“More than 1,500 people have come through the organisation for services in one way or the other. Having this rough start to get where we are, we are still going to continue to help those who we can.
“We started in the BIDC centre about ten years ago, then we moved to Bay Street, then we moved to Tudor Street, then recently here. These were not by any means easy moves. We struggled through every bit of it with limited financing, to many nights having the lights turned off in our faces,” Saffrey recalled.
In heaping praise on his staff who he confessed work tirelessly without proper pay and sometimes no pay in an operation that costs some $800,000 per year to run, Saffrey appealed to other corporate entities to join the existing sponsors to help keep the shelter open.
“We can’t just do it on words, we can’t do it just on food stuff or clothing. We would need to do it on financial assistance. I would hate to know at any point in time that I am home and the lights were to be turned off in these people’s faces at night. We have seen it already…it didn’t end pretty. I wouldn’t like to see that they have babies in there – because we are facilitating babies, women and the children – I wouldn’t like to see the light turned off in anyone’s face,” the homeless advocate pleaded.
Acknowledging the heavy load which the Alliance to End Homelessness has on its shoulders, Saffrey suggested the need for another entity to join in sheltering and caring for this vulnerable group of people.
Pledges of continued support were expressed by all the senior representatives of the sponsors who addressed the gathering last night including Lennox Prescod of the Massy Foundation, Hayle and Roach.
However, Roach only confirmed the continued funding the homeless operation for another year.
She, like all the other sponsors, urged additional business entities to get onboard.
During the ceremony, schoolgirl Trinity Clarke, who mesmerized the audience in song, was named by Saffrey as Ambassador for the Alliance to End Homelessness.
Volunteers who have been contributing to the charity were also recognized and awarded during the ceremony.