It cannot be ignored any longer. Homelessness has become a major problem in Guyana. A walk around Georgetown should be relaxing, if one ignores the traffic, but traffic is an issue in just about every city in the world. Being in the heart of the city, it is possible to drift off into a locality where all is well with the sophistication of technology in the 21st century. All around the city are beautiful structures designed for a modern ,attractive city in which all can be proud.
But then that image disappears in a flash as stench drifts insolently from the pavements and gutters as some poor souls who do not have a place of their own, lie comfortably in broad daylight on pieces of cardboard, either asleep or pretending to be. These unfortunate individuals have found themselves in a situation that is shocking and could happen to anyone.
It is humiliation of the worst kind. Whether they are alcoholics or are addicted to drugs, and regardless of what has caused them to descend into the depths of poverty, be it some innate weakness or perverse tendency to self-destruct, we the fortunate should not cast them aside.
The speed with which this tragedy can unfold is beyond imagination. Many of the homeless can be seen wandering the streets, rummaging through garbage bins for food. They have little or no idea of the time of day or what is occurring around them. Many are oblivious to reality.
We see it in films where the homeless become somebody. But in films they probably would get help from someone. In real life, society is short of heroes. Many are afraid or disdainful of the homeless. They see them as distasteful, filthy, weird and irrational. But if we find ourselves in the same situation, would we be the rational people we like to think of ourselves as?
Our Capital City is in a very bad state in terms of the amount of homeless people and beggars. The destitute among us eat, sleep, urinate and defecate on the pavements and in alleyways, and that has become a living hell for businesses. People also sell food and snacks in the vicinity which is unclean. Some even sit and eat while enduring the stench.
With respect to its impact on visitors and tourists, one can only imagine. Neither the City nor the government seems capable of solving the problem. And the government at one time had seemed more content to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on celebrations and other peripheral activities, while paying scant regard to the issue of homelessness. We are not sure if there currently is a comprehensive plan to effectively address this ever-growing dilemma.
There needs to be a robust strategy to address the plight of the homeless and to eradicate the begging syndrome which has become increasingly disturbing. True leaders will put others before themselves because of their love and concern for their people. Those in authority need to come down from their lofty perches and face these issues frontally. The government must display the willingness to ensure that the homeless are not abandoned.
Many are perishing slowly in poverty. We cannot accept the notion that the homeless prefer to live in the streets rather than in a house or a shelter. We must treat the issue of homelessness with utmost importance, since many of the dispossessed or destitute are afflicted by some type of psychological or mental illness ranging from clinical depression, schizophrenia to bipolar disorders.
We have a major problem on our hands. It must be fixed now.
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