FLASHBACK - Members of the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force preparing the temporary shelter for street dwellers at the Riverside Carpark, in March 2020. (Image: Ministry of Social Development and Family Services)

The Ministry of Social Development and Family Services (MSDFS) is condemning recent acts of vandalism at a temporary shelter for street dwellers, located immediately beneath the Riverside Carpark, South Quay, Port-of-Spain.

A release from the Ministry notes that it has received reports of alleged acts of vandalism at the facility, since the temporary shelter closed in February 2021.

“The facility had been viewed as a proactive approach by the Ministry to provide short-term care and shelter for the most vulnerable under highly unusual and unpredictable circumstances given COVID-19 restrictions, and the fact that street dwellers were among the most high-risk populations for contracting the virus. However, as restrictions were lifted the facility was closed,” the Ministry said.

It added: “Since then, it is noteworthy that plans are underway to hand over the space to the Port of Spain Corporation to be utilized to facilitate other needed services for the Street Dwellers population as efforts are made to reduce and manage street dwelling in the country.”

FLASHBACK – Permanent Secretary Jacinta Bailey-Sobers (center) and staff from the Ministry’s Social Displacement Unit join the Trinidad and Tobago Defense Force for a walkthrough on April 7th 2020. (Image: Ministry of Social Development and Family Services)

Between March and April 2020, the Ministry with assistance from the Trinidad and Tobago Defense Force (TTDF), constructed a temporary facility on the ground level of the car park at Riverside Carpark, at the Centre for Displaced Persons (CSDP), to provide temporary shelter for street dwellers.

The facility—which comprised dormitories for men and women—provided beneficiaries with cots to sleep on, bathroom facilities, a dining/recreation facility and three meals daily. Social distancing rules applied to reduce COVID-19 spread at the facility.

The Ministry is calling on the perpetrators to desist from vandalising the site.

It also is reminding citizens that it is available to assist individuals and members of the public interested in further information regarding the care and rehabilitation of street dwellers within their communities or public spaces.

Interested persons are advised to contact the Social Displacement Unit at 623-2608 ext. 5701–5705, from Monday to Friday between 8:00 am and 4:00 pm.