THE city of San Fernando has now become a haven for street dwellers with an additional influx of 65 street dwellers now living on Harris Promenade.
The street dwellers have made their home in the spanking new bandstand obliquely opposite the City Corporation where they wash and hang their clothing along the railings.
In addition, the street dwellers are now refusing meals and are requesting particular dishes from charitable organisations and people. This was revealed by the city’s mayor Junia Regrello who said they are refusing certain foods if they are given consecutively on Saturdays and are asking for macaroni pie and chicken along with other dishes on Sundays. “Yes, believe it or not this is what is happening along the Promenade,” the mayor said. At the time the mayor was addressing a meeting of the business community and senior police officers at the San Fernando City auditorium on Wednesday night.
Regrello said in certain situations when they are given pelau on Saturday and then receive that same dish the following Saturday they refuse the meal. “They say no we got that last Saturday,” Regrello said. He said the street dwellers have taken over the bandstand on the Promenade which now posses a challenge to the city. He said each week there are new faces of homeless men and women. “It is as if the word has spread that the people of San Fernando are generous and they treat you well, so now you have homeless people migrating from Chaguanas, Rio Claro and other areas and coming to live on Harris Promenade,” the mayor said. Adding he said, “You would be amazed to see what happens on Saturdays and Sundays on the Promenade. Some of them are getting better meals than what some of us eating,” Regrello said. In addition many of these homeless people are given money along with their meals which they use to purchase Bay Rum and alcohol.
Regrello said he has spoken on numerous occasions publicly warning organisations to discontinue the practice of giving food to the homeless on the Promenade. He said despite his warnings the practice has continued and has now escalated to the point where it is out of control. Recently, the mayor said police had to be called to the Promenade to detain a homeless man who was walking naked in front of school children.
Other incidents have been reported where street dwellers harass and threaten children, women and men with stones and bricks. Regrello said it was unfair to the burgesses of San Fernando. “It has reached to the point that if you even question them people from different human rights organisations would begin to speak up and tell you leave them alone. It is really difficult for us,” the mayor said.
When Newsday visited the Promenade shortly after 4pm many of the street dwellers were now gathering at the bandstand. Newsday learnt that many of them arrive at the bandstand at about sunset. “I come here when it is cool. I don’t have a place to go so I really don’t have a choice,” said 64-year-old Daniel Vincent. He told Newsday that he was put out of his home in La Brea almost three years ago and has since been living on the Promenade. “I get meals here from all different people. I am grateful but some of the other homeless people are ‘happy’. If they don’t like the food they get they tell whoever brings it they don’t want it,” Vincent said.
“I take whatever I get and say thanks,” he said. Vincent said he believes that some of the people living on the streets now have options, so they are bold. “There are a lot of people who come here to give out food, so they have many to choose from. Look at my age I am not supposed to be here on the street begging. I had a life,” he said.
Another 40-year-old man who wished not to be named said many of the homeless people who harass people are not ‘regulars’. “They are from out of the area and they came once and got plenty food and decided to stay. I think only the ‘regulars’ should be allowed to stay on the Promenade. It is too crowded now,” he said.
Regrello said he is currently in discussions with the Minister of Social Development and Family Affairs Cherrie-Ann Crichlow Cockburn to implement measures to deal with the influx of homeless people in the city. He called on charitable organisations who wish to feed the homeless to refrain from doing so on the Promenade because they are encouraging the rapid infiltration of the homeless. He said if people or organisations wish to offer meals to the homeless they can contact the City Corporation which would make arrangements for meals to be distributed at Court Shamrock in San Fernando.