Could the recent upsurge in unemployment potentially lead to an increase in the socially displaced?
This was the question, and the warning posed by chief executive officer of the Employers Consultative Association CEO Stephanie Fingal during the ministry’s meeting with the business community concerning its ongoing effort to address the issue of street dwelling in the country.
Fingal said there had already been signs depicting the impact of cutbacks and closures of businesses across the country through the visible increase of people turning up to beg at shopping centres and malls.
“With the current state of retrenchment we are seeing an influx of people in malls, for instance I live in Central, who are now harassing people within the car parks asking for money and all of those things. Some of those people will probably end up as homeless people,” said Fingal, “I see a problem you know sort of escalating if parallel to dealing with people who are already homeless we don’t put something in place to address the rate of unemployment vis a vis perhaps finding out if people are having issues.”
Fingal noted the aggressive nature of the those seeking aid in those shopping centres after the permanent secretary of the Ministry Vijay Gangapersad pointed out that the homeless population could pose a health risk to wider population both through their lack of health care or in some cases their mental state deteriorating to the point that they lash out as had been seen previously.
“We have our official mayors and government are being thrown with lawsuit from time to time as a result of being accosted by people who are street dwellers. We have a young lady who was struggling on a wait and see game to see if she would be able to see in her left eye after being struck by a street dweller,” he said.
However, president of the Downtown Owners and Merchants Association Gregory Aboud said thankfully reports of such attacks have not been heard for some time at least in the capital of Port- of- Spain.
“I don’t know where that lady got her face busted or how long ago that was Mr Gangapersad, but I could say from the city of Port of Spain that we haven’t had a report of an attack on any civilian or pedestrian or anything for quite a number of years. We have not,” he said.
Aboud, who was also representing the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Commerce at the meeting, also took the opportunity to explain that his suggestion last week concerning Carnival, as well as DOMA’s involvement in these meetings were not merely to serve the interest of the business community.
“This is a humanitarian problem as you alluded to, this is a crisis of conscious so to speak for our society to attend to what is taught to us in catechism the least among us. To those who actually according to that same catechism have a much better chance of entering the kingdom of heaven than any of us sitting in this room by their position in society. So we are here to try and assist in that regard,” he said, “I say that because I had a recent experience in wanting to recommend something about Carnival and all of a sudden I became a vampire, or a soucouyant in the eyes of many including journalists in the paper.”
The ministry has proposed to introduce assessment and rehabilitation homes for the social displaced as they seek to move away from the use of Riverside Plaza which has long been seen as less than adequate location for the socially displaced.