St Barnabas’ fate highlights the need to seriously address vagrancy

Dear Editor,

During the summer holidays we saw the dismantlement of the St Barnabas Church located at the corner of Regent and Bourda streets. I happened to pass by that way when I overheard an animated conversation between two gentlemen lamenting the loss of yet another historic structure. The focus of their discussion centred on what they termed the callous nature of the government in allowing a private investor to pull down one of the oldest Christian churches in Georgetown. At this point I joined the discourse by enlightening my learned friends that the government had nothing to do with the sale or destruction of the building, that it was purely a private transaction between the businessman and the Anglican Church. But this did not go down too well with my hearers because the next thing I heard was “you are one of them” meaning I was a PPP/C supporter. Now what does that have to do with the statement I made and this is my problem with a certain section of the population in my country. They do not see things for what they are they simply cannot put something in its right perspective, only seeing things through the jaundiced eyes of race or politics.

The reasons for the church body deconsecrating that building is quite obvious and stems from the vagrant population that inhabits the corridors of the nearby municipal market. These street people oftentimes use the church environs as a night shelter and a public restroom. As one church sister remarked “we literally could not breathe as a result of the stench coming from the raw faeces on Sunday mornings”. The sacrilegious actions of those street people plagued worshippers at that church for far too long and the only sane thing to do was to sell the building and move away from the area.

This has been a major worry for parishioners in all urban settings, which brings us to the question, how do we deal with the problem of vagrancy? We can recall the government prior to the UNASUR summit getting them off the streets and into shelters and for the mentally challenged, quality treatment at our lone psychiatric hospital. The streets of Georgetown were void of the homeless as well as the bad odour that accompany their existence there. While vagrants had a warm and clean environment with which to stay, the political junkies were out in full force denouncing the government for what they termed “forced removal of street people” they accused the government of being uncaring and heartless and just putting up a show for the visitors. Their criticism reached fever pitch levels when that mentally challenged man drowned in the Canje River; him being unfamiliar with his new surroundings. This allowed them time to give full vent to more political garbage. And this is the most disturbing factor; the vitriol that comes from the print and electronic media from those who want to put the government in a bad light. They have no viable alternative, their preoccupation is to peddle a political gimmickry.

My advice to the government at this time is to deal with the problem. Get these people into shelters where they can receive good care and treatment protection from the elements. These shelters should ensure that the able-bodied tenants seek gainful employment. At the same time the facility should be fitted with high fences so that its occupants cannot return to the streets. Government needs to take care of its ever increasing vagrant population and stop focussing on the criticisms of its detractors.

Yours faithfully,
Neil  Adams

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