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A Defence Force soldier does masonary to help complete a centre for the socially displaced at Riverside Plaza, Port-of-Spain, yesterday.

Whether young or old, rich or poor, COVID-19 is equally a threat to all.

But, adhering to health precautions is a unique challenge for Port-of-Spain’s homeless population.

However, if all goes to the Ministry’s plan, the Centre for Displaced Persons, at the Riverside Plaza Car Park, will be opened on April 14th.

“We need to be able to provide alternative accommodation for persons who are on the streets no, as we are all supposed to be trying, as hard as possible, to stay inside. So the plan here is to accommodate 62 persons,” said Reyes Borrel, Executive Director of the ministry’s Social Displacement Unit.

The 62 people will be entitled to cots to sleep on, a daily shower, three meals a day, and a regular change of clothing.

While there will be recreational activities, Borrel said, there won’t be any specific rehabilitation programmes.

However, in an effort, to reduce the chances of the novel coronavirus spreading in the shelter, everyone will be screened, according to the permanent secretary of the social development ministry, Jacinta Bailey-Sobers.

“We need to be careful, in terms of ensuring that in here is healthy,” Borrel said.

Visiting the site, on Wednesday morning, Port-of-Spain Mayor Joel Martinez said he was pleased with the progress thus far.

He was excited by the prospect of the shelter being completed.

Since 2017, when the parcel of land at Riverside Plaza was donated to the City Corporation, the Mayor has attempted to create a shelter there.

There were previous issues with funding.

“The facilities here are very accommodating and there’s a lot more to be done. I must say Port-of-Spain is on top of things if this works out well. We can see something greater coming out of these efforts,” Mayor Martinez said.

Working together to make the project possible are members of the Social Development Ministry, Port-of-Spain City Corporation, as well as members of the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force.

According to Defence Force Captain Anthony Blake, soldiers from the first engineering battalion, and reserve have been working long hours to push the project towards completion.

“Approximately twenty-five to thirty soldiers are here per day. The Ministry of Social Development has been providing us with the necessary material to support the effort on this project,” Captain Blake said.

He said it has been an honour for members of his team to assist their fellow citizens in this time of need.

Mayor Martinez has previously stated his intent to enforce the corporation’s move-along policy, in an attempt to encourage the homeless to use the facility.

The homeless cannot be legally removed from the City by force.

Port-of-Spain’s homeless population that was estimated in 2018, by the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services, to be around 414 people.

It’s unclear if that number has increased, or decreased, since then.