Member of Parliament for Cumuto/Manzanilla, and former Social Development Minister, Christine Newallo-Hosein, is urging Government to have a comprehensive plan for street dwellers, across the country.

According to the former Social Development Minister, the removal of the socially displaced and homeless persons must extend to other areas throughout the country and should not only be limited to the capital city.

She was referring to the recent initiative which saw the Defence Force creating temporary shelter for street dwellers at the Centre for Socially Displaced Persons at Riverside Plaza in Port of Spain. The exercise was done in collaboration with the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services, the St. Vincent DePaul Society, and the City Corporation.

The Cumuto/Manzanilla MP argues that the expertise of medical social workers from the Ministry of Health should be used in the any such removal exercise of the socially displaced from the streets.  She is further asking the Social Development Minister—Camille Robinson-Regis—to consider some form of quarantine for the workers who will be engaged in this exercise as COVID-19 is a highly contagious and infectious virus.

Mrs Newallo-Hosein also is calling on the Government to outline what measures are being implemented in other areas of the country where there are socially displaced persons.

“Who would take responsibility for removing street dwellers from the second city of San Fernando, other towns, villages and Boroughs, such as Arima, Sangre Grande, San Juan, Chaguanas and Point Fortin?” she asked. “There are many other areas which do have a challenge with the socially displaced and these areas must be attended to as well.”

The Former Minister of the People and Social Development expressed concern that the socially displaced can be a deciding factor when it comes to whether the rate of transmission declines or increases. She added that while social distancing and strict sanitary conditions are being observed by the general population, this is not applicable to street dwellers, given the nature of how they congregate, eat, drink and sleep. She notes that the Government’s handling of this section of the population is of critical importance in the fight against the spread of the COVID-19 Virus.

The Cumuto/Manzanilla MP also expressed grave concern over what she called the “indirect exposure” of street dwellers during recent Carnival celebrations. She lamented that many street dwellers in the Capital City and elsewhere in the country, where Carnival celebrations were held and were visited by tourists from around the world, may have been exposed to indirect transmission. She observes that many may now be walking around, carrying and transmitting the virus without the knowledge of doing so.

Mrs Newallo-Hosein says  the Government needs to address this matter with alacrity and the clinical precision that is needed to stop the spread of the virus.

“Failure on the part of the Government to address this most pressing matter in a very comprehensive manner can nullify any and all good decisions made in the past,” she warns.