A drop-in centre was opened in Buckfield, Ocho Rios, in St. Ann on May 11 by Minister of Local Government and Community Development, Hon. Desmond McKenzie.
The Minister said homeless persons have been taking up valuable space at the island’s hospitals, oftentimes at the expense of patients in dire need of medical care, and for this reason, drop-in centres for the homeless and mentally ill are being established.
“There are a number of hospitals where you will find persons who have now become permanent residents. Many of them have been abandoned by family members and, of course, we can’t just turn them out. The creation of drop-in centres will definitely help to ease the pressure off the hospitals, making more beds available for patients,” Mr. McKenzie said.
He noted that the Buckfield centre will give the less fortunate an opportunity to have a place “to shower and change clothes”, in addition to getting cooked meals.
“We are going to try our best to get beds inside these centres, as we are not going to turn anybody away who wants somewhere to sleep… certainly not under my watch,” the Minister assured.
“The expansion of national facilities that will provide care and comfort to our homeless citizens is an important aspect of the work of this Administration. From this building will emerge the services that will deliver relief and a sense of dignity to the homeless people of this parish,” the Minister said.
Mr. McKenzie noted that efforts are being fast-tracked to get other drop-in centres up and running, adding that the private sector has been playing an important role in the process. He further revealed that drop-in centres in Hanover, St Mary and St Elizabeth should be ready later this year.
A drop-in-centre is a service agency for either the mentally ill, homeless people, drug addicts or other groups. It is a place where they can go to obtain food and other services. It is also a friendly environment for people who are struggling with mental health symptoms to recover.
Mr. McKenzie said the Ministry will be giving the centre at Buckfield a monthly subvention of $150,000 to assist with operations.
“I am also advising the Mayor and his team at the St. Ann Municipality to purchase a vehicle to transport homeless persons to the facility… go and look for them and bring them here,” he urged.