For the past five years, Frank Deonarine has lived on the streets of San Fernando, facing the elements and sleeping on hard concrete pavements.
When Kazim Hosein was elected as the city’s mayor in 2013, he met Deonarine, who asked him for a pair of steel-toed boots.
Hosein obliged as Deonarine told him he wanted to use to the boots for a job he was getting.
Yesterday, Deonarine, who calls himself the president of the Homeless Association, sat at the head table as Hosein’s Ministry of Rural Development and Local Government, together with the Social Development Ministry and the San Fernando City Corporation held “Sharing a meal with the Homeless” at the San Fernando Centre for Displaced Persons. The centre was the brainchild of Hosein, who vowed to assist the homeless to get off the streets of San Fernando after assuming office as mayor in 2013. He continued to rally for the shelter to be opened even after he was appointed as a senator and minister in 2016.
After speeches by Hosein and Social Development Minister Cherrie-Ann Crichlow Cockburn, Deonarine, 54, told Newsday he was very happy with the initiative. Over 80 homeless people attended the all-day event, where they were treated to manicures, pedicures, tested for high blood pressure and diabetes, given clothing and survival kits and meals. Members of the Revival of Ummah (ROU) volunteer group and the San Fernando Volunteer network provided staffing for the event.
“I am very thankful for this place and talking with other people this morning, they were all excited to come here,” Deonarine said. “We know this place was supposed to open a while now but it was shut down for a little while, we glad to see it running now.”
However, he would like to authorities to remove homeless people who are addicted to alcohol and drugs from the streets and give them proper care and treatment.
“There are plenty fellas who drink bay rum every day or they drinking rum or smoking coke, it does lick them up. I think the government should come on the streets, see who suffering from addiction, take them and treat them for it. Because plenty of them don’t listen to me when I talk and it have some does get sick, go in the hospital and then run away and do the same thing again. We need more help for these people.”
Asked about his role as head of the Homeless Association, Deonarine explained, “I does try to look out for everybody on the street, when you living outside there, there is victimisation, stress plus all the physical things that could happen. So we have to stick together, cause if you can’t handle the streets, you will go down hard outside there.”
Deonarine said he started living on the streets after the home his parents built burnt to the ground in 2013. “I had gone to Tobago and when I was there, I get a call that the house burn down. It was leased land so the people didn’t want me to build back anything and I had nowhere else to go and I just started staying on the streets.”
Deonarine said he is a welder and fabricator and rents tools whenever he can get work.
“I sleeping on the streets but I does get jobs, rent the tools and go and make a day work whenever I get it, is not like I just waiting there and I lazy.”