Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 5th 2013 Contents A5
May 5, 2013 www.guardian.co.tt Sunday Guardian
Port-of-Spain Mayor Louis Lee
Sing is contemplating retaining
former attorney general Ramesh
Lawrence Maharaj to file for judi-
cial review against the People s
Partnership Government regard-
ing the proliferation of street
dwellers in the capital city.
Filing judicial review, Lee Sing
said, will force the Government to
become more serious about its
plans and programmes on vagrancy
Lee Sing, who has verbally
attacked Minister of the People
Glenn Ramadharsingh over the
growing number of socially dis-
placed people residing within
the corporation s ambit, called
on the Government to get its act
"Let me say to you, the issue of
judicial review has crossed my mind
many times during the last week,"
Lee Sing said on Wednesday in a
Stating that the situation with
street dwellers had become a wor-
rying concern, Lee Sing pointed
out that in the last three years 12
people have sued the corporation
as a result of injuries sustained and
damage to their properties by
"Many have been attacked with-
Lee Sing said the public ought
to know what measures were being
put in place with respect to the
socially displaced and judicial
review was one of the avenues they
can get answers.
"Judicial review will call for the
facts to be told with regards to street
dwellers. But more importantly, a
judicial review may force the Gov-
ernment to become very serious
about its plans and programmes.
The matter has to be raised and
the minister has to be called upon
to account because he has the
money and special unit."
Asked if this might be the solu-
tion to the problem, Lee Sing said
it could be.
"It is something I want to take
up with Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj,
Lee Sing said he has not spoken
to Maharaj just yet.
Last year, Lee Sing said council
agreed to lease to Ramadharsingh s
ministry a street called Town
Council Street, near Riverside car
park, Port-of-Spain, for $10 a year.
The leasing of the street, Lee
Sing said, would have accommo-
dated vagrants who were taken off
the streets by the Inter-Agency
"We felt if we gave them more
space the project would be suc-
cessful. At every nook and cranny,
there is a street dweller. There are
more vagrants now than before.
The ministry has not taken up the
offer. I spoke to Ramadharsingh
about it, he said he was not aware.
I sent him the documentation late
Lee Sing said the corporation
has been bending over backwards
to assist the ministry in fighting
Instead of Government taking
frivolous bills to Parliament,
Lee Sing said appropriate legis-
lation should be looked at.
"The laws need to be changed
to take people off the streets legally.
What is effective is legislation to
give the authority the teeth to take
them off the street and work with
them using compulsory rehabili-
As a society, Lee Singh said, we
"We are getting it wrong at every
turn. There is too much incompe-
a hotbed of confusion
Dr Trevor Grant, a social welfare
specialist, supports Lee Sing s
claims that the street dweller s
population in Port-of-Spain has
Grant, also the author of the
2008 book, The Nowayrians: A
Look at Homelessness in T&T, said
the population had grown signif-
icantly in the last three years. Grant
said he came to this conclusion
based on his observations.
Grant, in 2009, had estimated
the country s vagrant population
to be in excess of 2,000.
Research conducted by Grant
showed that there were 1,000
homeless people living in and
around the capital city, and 2,000
overall in the country.
Of the 1,000, Grant concluded
that 600 reside in town alone.
"In the past, street dwellers were
not so populated in town."
Grant said it was alarming that
vagrancy was on the rise again,
despite Government s pledge to
reduce its population.
"Every time the IAU removes
one batch of vagrants another crops
up. The city has now become a big
mattress for them. You see them
sleeping on the pavements in the
hot sun, while in the night they
roam freely. They are out of con-
'Food cards in the
Grant blamed poverty and lack
of employment as the main factors
for this complex problem.
Some of the food cards being
distributed, Grant said, are going
into the wrong hands.
Also Cepep and URP jobs were
not sustainable, while others were
too lazy to work.
"All of these have been con-
tributing to people ending up on
Grant said unless Ramadharsingh
builds a proper dormitory and hire
specialised staff, "homelessness
will continue to be a hotbed of
Grant said the ideal place for the
dormitory was Tetron Barracks,
Chaguaramas, where vagrants with
special needs can be grouped,
treated and rehabilitated.
During rehabilitation, they can
also be trained in a skill, he pointed
We're bending over
backwards to help Of the 60, 17 sought rehabilita-
tion and graduated from the Piparo
Empowerment Centre last month.
The other 43 are housed at Vision
on Mission and the Transform Life
Ministries in Arouca.
A recent head count, Ramad-
harsingh said, showed that the
vagrant population was 480, with
Port-of-Spain being the highest
Trailing behind were Arima,
Chaguanas and San Fernando.
Ramadharsingh boasted that
street dweller numbers have been
dwindling in size.
"The figure is dynamic," Ramad-
Last year, 100 vagrants were tar-
geted to be taken off the streets,
but only 33 were picked up. The
State spends $4,000 monthly to
upkeep each institutionalised street
dweller, the Minister disclosed.
Ramadharsingh said he believed
he had accomplished a lot, since
no other government or politician
took the responsibility to deal with
the problem of homelessness in a
"This is the pilot project. Within
the next six months we are devel-
oping a plan that will really absorb
a lot of the socially displaced. We
know the issue is a complexed one.
We are trying."
Ramadharsingh said though
vagrancy has been around for
decades, even first world countries
are not exempted from the prob-
Joined by IAU staff, Senior Supt
Stirling Hackshaw, social services
co-ordinator Nicole Kingston and
manager Andrew Boodoo, Ramad-
harsingh said his biggest accom-
plishment would be the construc-
tion of the Centre for Socially
Displaced Persons (CSDP) at River-
side car park, which was re-
designed by architect John
Humphrey and is expected to be
built by Nipdec, at a cost yet to be
"There is no price to seeing street
The unit has three social workers,
nine police officers and five clerical
staff. They are also equipped with
four vehicles, three of which the
Once completed, CSDP will
accommodate 400 clients, who will
have access to health and dental
Ramadharsingh did not deny that
every time a batch of vagrants is
pick up, another appears.
He said mental illness, substance
abuse, unemployment, homeless-
ness and other social issues were
In the next three months,
Ramadharsingh said the Inter-
Agency unit s staff will be beefed
up from 24 to 120 members.
"We are seeking Cabinet s
approval to deem certain areas as
caregiver facilities...to outfit and
run a standard operating pro-
gramme," until the CSDP is up and
This will require a lot of man-
power, time and financial resources,
So far, they have identified three
in three months
In 2011, Ramadharsingh said the
Legislative Review Committee was
in the process of fine tuning leg-
islation for Cabinet to deal with
The legislation being developed
was an amendment to the Socially
Displaced Persons Act 59 of 2000
to provide the legal framework for
detaining street dwellers.
However, Ramadharsingh said
this had to be put on hold due to
the pilot project.
"Within the next three months
we will be ready with the legislative
Ramadharsingh said his most
challenging task was re-engineering
their original plans.
"We are rolling out this pro-
gramme in a scientific way and we
Questioned about Lee Sing s offer
to lease one of its streets for $10
a year, Ramadharsingh said while
they were greatful, they will take
up the opportunity with the
remodelling of the CSDP.
Humphrey: Centre to
look like a hotel
Former government minister
John Humphrey has revealed that
the CSDP will have the appearance
of a hotel, once completed.
Though the architectural design
was still being worked out,
Humphrey said it will be concep-
tualised not only for the "displaced
people" but deportees and former
prisoners who have no where to
"It will be virtually a place for
people who need an emergency
shelter. However, it will not look
like that. The idea is to make it look
more like a hotel."
Humphrey said the sketch he
sent to the ministry has simple
"It was very easy to enhance
(CSDP). It will also have emergency,
health and security. If there is a
problem in the city they can
respond to it."
Humphrey said it should take 12
to 18 months to build, but could
not say when work will begin.
Minister of the People and Social Development Dr Glenn Ramadharsingh
shows an artist impression of the Centre for Socially Displaced Persons.
PHOTO: KEARRA GOPEE
Lee Sing on homelessness:
Continued from Page A1
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