RC principals complain of homeless havoc on Harris Promenade

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Harris Promenade, San Fernando

PRINCIPALS from three RC schools on Harris Promenade complained bitterly to San Fernando mayor Junia Regrello on Wednesday about the havoc homeless people are causing to their school population.

Donna Solomon, principal of San Fernando Boys’ RC, Deborah East, of St Joseph’s Convent, and head of department, St Gabriel’s Girls RC, Rhetta Hilaire-Edwards told of socially displaced naked men and women, engaged in violent and obscene acts, traumatising the primary and secondary boys and girls.

The three were invited to the monthly statutory meeting of the San Fernando City Corporation (SFCC) on Wednesday to voice their concerns.

Hilaire-Edwards said girls at her primary school are often traumatised by naked men and women who roam the nearby Paradise cemetery and on the pavement in front of their school, in the heart of the city.

She said they often engage in violent outbursts and altercations and their language, which is explicit and obscene, travels into the classrooms during teaching and learning sessions.

Solomon related a similar experience, saying the psychological and social effect of the socially displaced is not a good image for her boys or the city.

“Last Friday a half-naked woman was dancing in front of the school while the boys waited for their parents to pick them up.”

She said while the daily fights do not stop the teaching, “the drama it creates affects the school population.”

She recalled in 2019 a homeless person who observed a security breach broke into the school.

“So there is also a security concern.”

East, principal of St Joseph’s Convent, told the meeting, “As Catholic schools, we understand and respect the dignity of all human beings, socially displaced and otherwise.”But she said within the last few months, they have noticed a burgeoning of people on the promenade, not just socially displaced, but others who are attracted by the free meals being served by the public three times a day.

“There is a level of filth associated with that. Members of that community defecate and urinate along the wall of the school.”

While the city has allowed teachers to park alongside the walls of the school on the promenade, when they go to their cars after school, “They have to step over piles of filth.

“It is really a terrible stench during the course of the day. Sometimes they come to the front gate and we see them urinate. This is not in the best interest and a very harmful for an environment of girls.

Like the other schools, she said hers has a front-seat view of fights and quarrels, laced with obscene language and nakedness.

She said the food waste has also created a pigeon infestation and a health hazard, as the birds occupy the entire building.

She recommended a controlled environment to feed the homeless, regular washing of the Promenade, and more law enforcement to discourage loitering.

“Whatever the solution you come up with, you must recognise their dignity and humanity,” she advanced.

Regrello told Newsday, “This is a really serious problem. We have been talking about this for quite a while, but we have reached a critical point where decisions have to be made.”

He admitted that among the street dwellers are badly behaved people, drug addicts, ex-convicts, and people who have been deported and have nowhere else to go.

He said he has been encouraging the public not to feed them on the streets but through Shamrock Court or the homeless shelter on King’s Wharf, where hot meals, a shower, change of clothing and a place to sleep overnight are provided.

“It is social issue. But I hope this morning’s meeting help to create a better understanding of what the issues are, and pressure we are under.”

He said the presence of homeless people is a cost to the city as they damage its infrastructure.Regrello said Minister of Social Development and Family Services Donna Cox is exploring an option to relocate them to the Piparo estate..

He is not certain what has happened to the assessment done about two years ago to ascertain their mental state..

“In the interim, we have to find a solution. We are going to have improved police presence and whatever else we can do to safeguard our young people.”