“The administration has indicated to the staff that vagrants will be housed there. They are taking the vagrants off the streets and putting them there,” a St Ann’s worker said yesterday.
The worker said administration started choosing the staff to work in the structures.
“The staff are really concerned. They are upset. They think it’s a slap in the face that the Government would want to put them in a place like this,” the worker said.
Questions about occupational safety and health are being raised as well as the suitability of the structures for the homeless, especially those diagnosed as being mentally-ill.
“This is not suitable for mentally-ill people or people being confined to an area you want them to stay in. It is not suitable for that. We are also questioning the number of patients and staff who will be in an enclosed area. The structure of the building is cause for concern.”
The worker said the toilets for patients and staff, beds, work stations will all be housed in the structures which measure approximately 15 ft by 40 ft. One will house a male ward and the other a female ward.
Staff are angry because they were not consulted before being chosen to work in the prefabricated buildings. Management advised the arrangement was “temporary” but this has not allayed their concerns. The preparation of the pre-fabricated building to house wards started last month and is almost complete.
Beautification efforts have been taking place in Port-of-Spain which has been deemed a high security zone. Yesterday hydrants were being painted around the city. Many people see the removal of the socially displaced as part of the preparation for the summit, but this has been denied by officials.
Port-of-Spain Mayor Murchison Brown yesterday said people would question the timing of removing the socially displaced whether the exercise started now or after the summit.
He said the exercise would begin at the end of next week.
“The Ministry of Social Services and Ministry of Health are the principal people involved in the exercise,” he said. As part of the process the homeless will be assessed and placed in the facility suitable to them. Brown said facilities were being prepared for the homeless and the placement of the homeless will be ongoing. The mentally challenged will be placed at St Ann’s and other socially displaced persons at Riverside Plaza.
Brown questioned why the action being taken should be criticised when the public often called for the authorities to deal with the homeless. He said before this happened there had to be proper facilities to house them.
Official comment was not available from the North West Regional Health Authority which manages the St Ann’s hospital.
The Communications Department of the Social Development Ministry indicated that its Social Displacement Unit was not aware of what St Ann’s was doing and it had “no plan to remove socially displaced persons as a result of the summit.” The department said the ministry has a national strategy to remove street dwellers. The strategy includes assessment, rehabilitation, and reintegration. “It is not a one off effort,” the department said.