Weeks after Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced a major revitalisation plan for the capital city, Port of Spain Mayor Joel Martinez says homeless people continue to be a major hindrance to development.
On a tour of the city on Tuesday, Martinez was talking about plans to decorate the Brian Lara Promenade for the Christmas season when he came upon a homeless man asleep on a bench.
The young man was dressed in only a t-shirt and shorts and slept curled into a fetal position to fit on the newly painted bench, with a pair of slippers as his pillow.
When Martinez saw him, he stopped, saying, “This is one of the issues we have to deal with.”
He went on to point out what appeared to be feces under the bench, saying he encountered a similar situation during a walkabout over the weekend.
While Martinez was speaking to members of the media, the homeless man opened his eyes and Martinez tells him, “You cannot stay here.”
The man blinks and sits up as Martinez turns away.
He said the city’s homeless keep citizens from using and enjoying its public spaces.
“They defecate right where they sleep and they utilise the pristine park and make it unsightly, that is why there is nobody in here at this point in time,” the Mayor said.
He said he has been trying to get the city’s business owners to contribute to a ‘Promenade Patrol’, which will ensure that the Promenade remains clean and homeless people are ‘moved along’ when they try to settle there.
He said one of the factors that keep business owners from contributing is the homeless.
“If I was to find a home for the homeless, it would inspire the business community to really push the agenda forward to be able to keep the promenade in a good shape, that in itself will help,” he said.
Martinez said there were plans to install interactive displays along the Promenade to celebrate cricket legend, Brian Lara, for whom the promenade is named.
He also said the city corporation is encouraging artists to come to the Promenade to play music and display their skills as part of the rejuvenation project.