Minister: 676 homeless in Trinidad and Tobago

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

File photo/Jeff K. Mayers

There are at least 676 socially displaced people across the country, according to the Minister of Social Development and Family Services, Donna Cox.

Responding to questions in the Senate on Tuesday, Cox said that was according to a November count.

Of those, 622 were male while 45 were female.

Cox said over a third of the street dwellers lived in Port of Spain, of which 218 were male and 17 female.

In Arima, there were 34 males and two females. In San Juan/Laventille, there were 42 males and two females.

The minister said the numbers could vary in reality as the socially displaced often hid from the authorities or migrated to other areas.

Cox said her ministry was working on several short, medium, and long-term initiatives to address the issue.

She said the initiatives were all in keeping with the four stages in the continuum of care of the national protective system for the socially displaced – engagement, temporary care, primary care, and advanced care.

In the short term, she said, the ministry is focusing on promoting the voluntary removal of socially displaced people from the streets, especially in cities.

She said that involved teams educating the street dwellers about alternatives to being on the streets. She said those with apparent mental health issues were reported to medical clinics for assessment and, if necessary, were involuntarily removed.

Those over 55 were referred to the continuum of care programme.

However, Cox lamented that removing people from urban centres was not an easy task because it must be voluntary.

“The Ministry of Social Development and Family Services does not have the legislative teeth to just remove people off the streets. There are human rights issues involved and also it requires a collaborative approach.”

She said despite the ministry’s efforts, many of the socially displaced preferred to stay on the streets. Cox said the ministry also worked with non-governmental organisations to rehouse the socially displaced.

She said discussions were ongoing with the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) to repurpose its hostel facility to be used as emergency housing for displaced single women and mothers with children. Minister: 676 homeless in TT