MUNICIPAL CORPORATIONS will provide care packages daily to the estimated 2,000 homeless Jamaicans as philanthropic efforts have been disrupted by COVID-19, Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie announced, reports The Jamaica Gleaner.
Meals will also be provided.
Busy city Kingston has seemed a shadow of itself, as streets that normally thronged with vehicular traffic and bustling bodies have been transformed into virtual graveyards.
As fears rise about the unfolding COVID-19 outbreak locally, the capital’s homeless are lamenting that they have been forgotten by good Samaritans who often jostled to feed them, particularly in the downtown section of the city.
A few homeless folk with whom The Gleaner spoke said that they were bailed out by KFC on King Street on Sunday, but others said they were left with nothing to eat.
An outspoken Sandra Minott, who said that she was “not really homeless”, explained that formal charities and individual humanitarians have scaled back their activities because they were fearful.
“From the corona, everybody get scared. Dem seh dem nuh waa bounce up pon nobody,” Minott said.
“I hear there should be no gathering and that’s why dem nuh come with no food. Then again, authorities say we are not to be fed on the streets.”
She claimed that since the island was declared a disaster zone by Prime Minister Andrew Holness on March 13 – he later revised that declaration that COVID-19 was the disaster – Poor Relief facilities have closed their doors.
“Dem seh we must go to Salvation Army or the Poor Relief, but the Poor Relief on Hanover Street lock off. Dem say who inside must stay in and who outside must stay out.
“They still feed some people on the outside, even though we are not allowed in. Most food places we usually go to lock off,” she said.
Also on King Street, three men huddled together. Sprawled out on his makeshift cardboard bed, 51-year-old Earl Smith managed to sit upright to bemoan that the coronavirus outbreak and its effects had been “rough and wicked”.
“I thank KFC fi gimme likkle rice, because mi did feel like mi a go drop down,” Smith said on Sunday.
“The people who used to give out food, dem nah come because the authorities stop them. From last week Sunday, mi nuh get nuh food from them.”
Smith’s neighbour, Eustace Hemmings, 63, said that he was still fortunate.
He is thankful that KFC handed him a plate of rice on Sunday, as the Catholic Church that usually gifts him food has shuttered its doors.
“I thank KFC fi gimme likkle rice, because mi did feel like mi a go drop down”Homeless Earl Smith
“Even though things rough, mi praise God same way,” Hemmings said. “Mi nuh fret, because the Psalms seh me must not fret.”
A few homeless persons milling about Silver Slipper Plaza in Cross Roads on Sunday sounded a similar cry to those downtown. They said that since the outbreak, help from authorised Samaritans has dried up.
Jason Daniels said that he waited until 5 pm last week Sunday on good Samaritans to deliver food on the plaza compound but left empty-handed when he realised he was waiting in vain.
“I didn’t get anything, so I just had to hold it,” he told The Gleaner.
Delroy Smith, a St Mary native who works and sleeps on the plaza, said that he has no reason to be worried. The 56-year-old believes that his best years are behind him.
“I am not fretting. If me dead, a just suh. Mi live as much already,” he said.
“All I do is wash my hand with bleach and soap whenever I going to eat.”
A feisty Trevor Binns, who was preparing to eat rice out of used cheese can, said that he was unworried because he consumed natural options like guinea hen weed to stay strong.
“I don’t know where corona come, but I have no problem. I use my herbs and the virus cannot stand up in heat,” he said.