There are several violent mentally unstable vagrants on the streets and authorities should not wait until they commit murder or other crimes before they take action.
This is the view of President of the Barbados Alliance to End Homelessness (BAEH) Kemar Saffrey who said from his daily interactions with a number of homeless individuals with mental issues he questions why government officials do not find some means of removing them from the streets to a place where they can get psychiatric treatment.
Saffrey’s comments come in the wake of the slaying of two persons allegedly at the hands of a man with mental issues. Nation photojournalist 25-year-old Christoff Griffith of Britton’s Hill, St Michael, and Glenroy James, 51, of Grazettes, in the same parish, were chopped to death on the grounds of the heavily-wooded Bishop’s Court, the derelict former residence of the Anglican Bishop.
James was cleaning the property when he was reportedly attacked by the vagrant who slept in the abandoned building. Griffith, who responded to the scene in his role as a photojournalist, became the attacker’s next victim.
Saffrey said he was shocked and disturbed by the incident and lamented that on numerous occasions his agency recommended to authorities that a number of vagrants should be taken off the streets because they may be a threat to members of the public.
He told Barbados TODAY that the circumstances surrounding yesterday’s double murder is evident that the issue of vagrancy and homelessness which his organization has been fighting to address for the past ten years is one that needs an all-hands-on-deck approach.
“We look at the fact that mental health is a challenge as it relates to some of our clients. And we believe as an organisation that mental health must be seriously looked at as it relates to homeless persons,” he said.
Saffrey, who heads the non governmental organisation (NGO) which seeks to provide food, clothing, shelter and rehabilitation programmes for homeless individuals, said it is time Government work closely with BAEH to get the vulnerable persons with mental health issues off the streets and into the care of relevant state-owned agencies for psychiatric treatment.
He pointed out that while he does not have any information on the alleged perpetrator who is in police custody, just last week, the BAEH called on authorities to remove one of their clients from the public domain. Saffrey shared that the client was not immediately removed, but was however arrested on Sunday after he showed signs of aggression towards a member of the public.
“We made recommendations to the police and they would have come in. So the police would have acted but I think the agencies need to act a little faster on recommendations from organizations like ourselves to get these persons from off the streets.
“I think that we are a little bit laid back as it relates to when we make recommendations for persons to be removed from the streets. They are not being moved off the streets and taken into a mental institution where they are taken care of until they are brought under control. They have to be removed off the streets once they pose to be a threat to the public or to themselves and that is the first step,” Saffrey said.
As it relates to vagrants occupying abandoned commercial buildings and houses, Saffrey said it is worrying that too many of them are finding refuge in these buildings, particularly in and around Bridgetown.
He suggested that property owners need to take more responsibility in properly securing unoccupied buildings to avoid unwanted guests.
“Now we need to look at removing the homeless living in these abandoned buildings that may want to think that because I am living there for five and six years that it is my property and then when people try to get on to the property things could happen,” he said.
Saffrey extended condolences to the families of the deceased.
Read our ePaper. Fast. Factual. Free.
Sign up and stay up to date with Barbados' FREE latest news.