Mediation to go on over homeless man's Tamarind Square appeal

GATE OPENED: Tamarind Square in Port of Spain, home to several homeless people. Photo by Roger Jacob
GATE OPENED: Tamarind Square in Port of Spain, home to several homeless people. Photo by Roger Jacob

MEDIATION efforts involving an appeal of a judge’s ruling against a homeless man’s challenge for the right to sleep in Tamarind Square, Port of Spain, continue, as the parties have agreed to another session in early June.

In 2017, a homeless man, Hugh Bernard, appealed a judge’s ruling against his claim to have the Port of Spain City Corporation open the gates to the square.

Before the appeal got going, mediation was suggested and is being facilitated by the Court of Appeal. The appeal itself has been put on hold pending the outcome of the mediation efforts.

Another session was held on Friday, and Newsday understands the parties renewed their commitment to the process.

Another hearing is set for June 11.

Because of the confidential nature of the talks, the parties were advised against speaking publicly on the issue.

On Thursday, Port of Spain mayor Joel Martinez said he will only hand over the keys to the gated shelter on the ground floor of the Centre for Socially Displaced Persons at the Riverside Plaza carpark if Anthony Salloum, founder of the NGO Homeless Assistance Office, dropped the appeal against the corporation.

But Salloum said there was no need to drop the appeal, since it had nothing to do with the shelter, but concerned the padlocking of Tamarind Square.

The keys to the temporary shelter at the Riverside Plaza carpark were handed over to the mayor by Minister of Social Development and Family Services Donna Cox, who said she was previously unaware of the dispute, but told Newsday she must intervene.

Contacted on Friday, Cox promised to call after she was done with her meetings.

On Thursday, Salloum said the appeal will be dropped only if the corporation agrees to the terms and conditions of the settlement. This includes establishing a homeless assistance centre by 2022 and providing suitable facilities for the socially displaced.

He said the ministry agreed to allow him to use the facility to continue his 19 years of relief work for the homeless.

“The reason I asked for the ground floor is that it is the centre of where the homeless is. It’s the hell-hole.”

If the keys are handed over, Salloum plans to convert the space into an office to support and facilitate the registration of the homeless in Port of Spain and its environs.

Cox said the reason the keys were given to the mayor was solely to create more space for the homeless looking for a place to go during the curfew hours.

Calls and messages to Salloum’s phone were unanswered on Friday.


"Mediation to go on over homeless man’s Tamarind Square appeal"

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