The head of the country’s homelessness charity has approached the diplomatic corps for funding amid a rise in requests for shelter from non-nationals stranded here by the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the president of the Barbados Alliance to End Homelessness, Kemar Saffrey, five non-nationals, including people from outside the Caribbean Community, are staying at the shelter. There are others who are waiting on COVID-19 test results before they are allowed to the BAEH shelter, prompting a need for the alliance to hold urgent talks with consulates and embassies.
He said BAEH is seeking to find out from the agencies what assistance they can give to the shelter which is also tackling an increase in homelessness among Barbadians.
Saffrey told Barbados TODAY: “We are finding that the increase that we are getting and the overload that we are seeing now with Barbadians being evicted, and Barbadians that are finding problems at home and have nowhere to live, means that we are going back into a 24-hour operation and putting additional pressure on the organization.
“And we find that when they come to the organization, the only time that you hear from the embassies or consulates is when there is a repatriation flight. There is no support in between. So we take the people and then they are the sole responsibility of the organization.”
He explained that the diplomats are contacting the shelter requesting that their nationals, who are stranded at the Grantley Adams International Airport or on the streets, stay there until repatriation flights become available.
But, Saffrey said, if this trend continues, it could mean significant financial challenges for the shelter which has had to extend the hours of its security and cook teams.
“So we are calling on the ambassadors or the relevant authorities to meet to discuss ways of helping their fellow countrymen because some of them are stranded at the airport and some of them are on the streets,” he said.
“We are finding that some of these persons are aged. They are as old as 72 and 80. These people are not familiar with Barbados.
“We have to be able to find a solution. A solution that does not put extra burden on the organization or additional costs. Whereas a homeless person comes to the shelter at night and sleeps and leaves in the morning, a tourist would have to stay at the organisation because they cannot afford to roam the way the homeless here would.”
Saffrey also indicated that some of the embassies and consulates are also asking the shelter to accept people with medical challenges, including mobility issues.
He said that while several of the alliance’s regular clients do have health problems, they are all mobile and are able to seek medical attention on their own if the need arises.
The BAEH president contended that it is only fair that the charity receives additional assistance for the shelter to meet rising operating expenses at a time when it has limited resources and is awaiting government funding.
“So we need to have an urgent meeting with these agencies. And the funny thing is that we are not even funded by some of these agencies because we don’t fall under their funding mandate because we don’t deal with children, we don’t deal with this. So we are always willing to help, but it must be in a way that we can handle the particular situation.”