THERE are approximately 414 homeless people with the majority living on the streets of Port of Spain, San Fernando and Arima.
However there is only one social worker employed by the Ministry of Social Development to deal with socially displaced people.
The startling statistic was made known yesterday by the ministry’s permanent secretary Jacinta Bailey-Sobers at a sitting of the Joint Select Committee on Social Services and Public Administration at the J Hamilton Maurice Room at the Parliament building.
She said a count done in November last year revealed that there were 22 women living on the street.
“We have statistics with respect to the end of November which would have given us a national number of 414 persons: 27 in Arima, 60 in San Fernando, 177 in Port of Spain.”
She said the ministry was faced with several challenges such as staffing and limited bed space as there were only 60 beds available at any given time.
But it was the establishment of the coordinating and monitoring committee, to oversee the implementation of the recommendations of the street dwellers working committee, which caused committee member Ancil Antoine to remark that there seemed to a “lot of bureaucracy” at the top of the ministry while there was only a “small implementation unit” to deal with the homeless.
Meanwhile, JSC chairman Dr Dhanayshar Mahabir said legislative achievements were not enough to solve the problem of the socially displaced, but suggested that housing be a top priority in tackling the problem.
“Despite whatever successes we may achieve on the legislative front, there still is deficit with respect to accommodating our socially displaced who happen to be sleeping on the streets and in the squares.
And I think it is a matter of utmost priority that we now give thought to how we are going to offer a place for them to be accommodated at least during the night.”