The Barbados Alliance to End Homelessness (BAEH) has halted its intake of persons at its Spry Street shelter in an effort to protect current residents from COVID-19.
BAEH President Kemar Saffrey said that while the shelter has admitted 70 persons since Government issued last Friday’s 24-hour shutdown, others who come now would not be allowed to stay there as a precautionary measure to prevent any spreading of the virus at that location.
He said those homeless individuals who came to the shelter last Friday evening to stay for the duration of the lockdown period are being monitored and are not showing any symptoms of the virus.
However, Saffrey said the management of the shelter cannot be sure that those wanting to come to the shelter now were not exposed to COVID-19 in recent days.
He made it clear that when the shutdown order was issued all homeless individuals were advised to come to the shelter.
“If for example I take somebody off the street and they come in here coughing and they may not have it but that is going to create uproar among the clients.
“And the clients have also expressed that we cannot be taking a new person everyday. People have been coming here by the hour and while that is fine I cannot say that if John comes now we will let John in because we do not know where John has been to.
“The idea of the shelter was to take as many people as possible off the streets to protect them. If one person comes in here with the virus you are putting 70 plus clients, 12 staff and our families at risk. The most we can do is make sure that they are still fed but we cannot take in anymore. Even if the police come and say put in this person we have to say no,” Saffrey said.
He disclosed that members of the homeless community who will be unable to stay at the shelter will get a card from the organisation which says “I am homeless” which they may show to police on patrol if challenged.
But, Saffrey said that police, particularly those at the Bridgetown division have been giving the fullest support to the alliance, responding whenever needed.
“One of the things that would protect the rest on the street is that foot traffic is limited so it means that even if they are on the streets they are not at that great risk of contracting the virus.
“We protect them and we go out with that temperature gun and we check them. I go to St James and Oistins, Christ Church and I make sure the homeless are fed on a day to day basis so we are still reaching our target audience at this time,” he said.
The president however said Barbadians must be assured that the alliance would continue to give meals to all homeless individuals who attend its feeding programmes, including those who are unable to stay at the shelter at this time. Infact, Saffrey explained that since the curfew took effect, around 120 persons have been going to the shelter for daily meals, in addition to seeking access to other services offered there.
He explained that while the shelter, which opened its doors in January, only operated at nights, the shutdown has forced it to run on a 24-hour basis leading to increased expenses for the non governmental organisation.
He indicated that while the organisation has been receiving several food donations, more is welcomed.
“We don’t know how long we have to cook three meals a day. I cannot say there is enough food. We would like more food. There is also the cost overrun because we don’t know what our bills will look like at the end of the period because we have so many people and we have bills going up. We have to increase our staff, we are looking at getting somebody here to do medicals.
“The workload has really intensified on us. We are accustomed to keeping people in the shelter at nights, we never really did it for 24 hours so we are learning and we need help,” Saffrey said.
He stressed that BAEH has implemented Government’s COVID-19 hygienic protocols at the shelter.
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