‘Vagrants’ should be thought of as ‘people’ like us who have relinquished the chains of sanity in order to cope

Dear Editor,

The reports about ‘vagrants’ attacking persons has led, as is usual when the vagrants attack persons, to some discussion about ‘what to do with the vagrants.’ The ‘What the People Say’ column on Monday, February 4,  reflected some views, many compassionate, that many of the ‘vagrants’ are in need of some medical help of some sort and other psychosocial support.

Or do they really need that help, shelter, medication which seems to be geared to make the ‘vagrants’ invisible and to subdue and pacify them?

The  ‘What the People Say’ column had nice titles under the captions; none of the titles included ‘vagrant.’ It is always interesting when we want to talk about those whom we perceive as ‘other’ and different without involving them in the discussion.

One of the things which might scare or terrify many of us, is that many of the ‘vagrants’ are probably ‘happy’ to be as they are − free to sleep where they want, free to rummage and eat and free to wear (or not wear) what they want. Perhaps mental health might have been the last prison for many of the vagrants, and the freedom from rules and expectations (of well meaning shelters and doctors and dispensers of medication) is probably what the ‘vagrants’ have found to be the most desired state. While we lament the violence of ‘vagrants’, we forget that statistically, we are probably more likely to be attacked and violated by ‘sane’ persons − whether bandits, drunk drivers, sane teachers wielding wild canes and rulers in schools, sane parents at home (beating or cussing like dey head not good), loved ones. Sane people with connections who could peddle alcohol and other narcotics without fear of any sanctions.

As Guyana prospers, the quality of health care has diminished, even though there is need to have more professional services available (not in private practice) for those who are in need of especially different kinds of support for mental health.  It is still uncertain what kind of drug rehabilitation services are available at little or no cost.

When thinking of what to do with ‘vagrants’ it might be good to not think of them as ‘vagrants’, but as ‘people’ like us, many of  whom might have relinquished the chains of sanity as their way of coping and surviving with their own traumas.  It should be of the greatest importance − and include the people who are homeless, wandering, having mental health problems, as well as those who have survived these problems − in working out how we could live with each other.

Yours faithfully,
Vidyaratha Kissoon

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