No one likes to see people living on the streets. In fact, there are those among us who believe that people are made to lie on the streets either because of impecuniosity or because of hostile family members.
Indeed, Guyana, with its high percentage of poor people, is no stranger to the courts being full of people seeking relief from eviction either because they cannot pay their rent or because the property has changed hands and the new owners want vacant possession.
Then there are the old people whose relatives could not take time to make their final days comfortable either because they are too uncaring or because they simply do not have the resources to care for such a person. Sometimes, there are people who dictate whether they want an individual to live with them.
Some people have been known to lose property after pledging the asset for loans from commercial banks and failing to repay the loan and having the bank calling in the debenture. This is all too common although the people in this kind of trouble are less likely to become pavement dwellers.
Not least among the lot are the drug addicts and the mentally ill. Increasingly, more and more drug addicts are adorning the streets either because they cannot cope with society or because they have become nuisances to the people with whom they lived.
As far back as the colonial era the powers that be recognized the plight of the poor, particularly the elderly, and fashioned a place that was maintained at the expense of the government. One such is the Palms, once called the Alms House. Then came the people who felt that with their resources, they could provide help for the less fortunate among us.
This saw the establishment of a number of senior citizens’ homes, among them Uncle Eddie’s Home, Gentlewomen’s Home, Archer’s Home and quite a few others. There is the Dharm Shala and the various orphanages.
Eventually many of these homes could not be supported by the trust so the government, in what was by then independent Guyana, began to offer subventions to these institutions. Of course, not all of these homes fell by the wayside.
Yet for their presence, there were people who could not take the time to place their seniors in these. Perhaps the fact that they would have had to pay was one of the inhibiting factors. The result is that we have pavement dwellers, some of whom are children. The children add another aspect to this phenomenon.
Many of them run from broken homes but the society does not take time to investigate the social circumstances that give rise to these young people being on the streets where they suffer various abuses and sometimes are killed as was the case of one young boy who happened to be sleeping in the avenue.
This issue caught the attention of the Venezuelan Government under the late President Hugo Chavez. The neighbouring Republic opted to fund the construction of a home for these people. The Guyana Government now says that one of the services that would be offered at this home is the rehabilitative service that would be designed to help these homeless people to get reintegrated into society.
The Chief Government spokesman said that there would be nurses working with these people. However, the reality is that most of these people need psychiatric help and this would not be forthcoming in the newly constructed home. There are simply not enough psychiatric nurses in Guyana and even fewer psychiatrists.
Some of these people are so mentally ill that even the best of homes would not entice them to stay; these are people who only feel comfortable on the streets. Left to their own devices these people would render the home a virtual white elephant.
Unless there is some measure of security these people would simply walk out. The Night Shelter set up in the city is a case in point. Despite its presence, it often has space for those who need a roof although the streets are full of pavement dwellers.
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