Founder and President of the Barbados Vagrants and Homeless Society (BVHS), Kemar Saffrey.

Homeless Society issues Manifesto proposal to all political parties

The Barbados Vagrants & Homeless Society (BVHS) is inviting all political parties planning to run in the upcoming General Elections, to take note of its “Homeless Manifesto” proposal, designed to facilitate the care and protection of vulnerable homeless persons in Barbados.

In an interview with The Barbados Advocate, BVHS Founder and President, Kemar Saffrey indicated that the document produced by the successful charitable organisation which has been in
operation for the past eight years, has been forwarded to the main political parties, as well as new entrants, for their consideration, ahead of the Election.

“We would like them to consider it, even as they make plans on their intended policies and see how it can be incorporated. We would like them to give their commitment to addressing the issue of homelessness in Barbados and consider our proposals, even if it is just one,” Saffrey stated.

“So far, all leaders have agreed to the look at it. Even the new parties thought it was good, [as it could give them] a guide on the challenges to be addressed,” the BVHS President added.

Saffrey, meanwhile noted that going forward into 2018, the BVHS believes it is time to end homelessness for good and political parties can play their part in this endeavour.

“Homelessness is not inevitable. This General Election, every party must pledge to end street sleeping and homelessness in our country,” Saffrey states in his proposal.

“The number of people sleeping on the streets in Barbados has more than doubled, since tough economic policies were introduced in 2008, through 2017. More than 100 people sleep on the streets of Barbados, on any one night. Homelessness and sleeping on the streets has scaled to a national level, but as the leading homelessness organisation, we know that change is possible, with the election of your party,” he adds.

He points to lessons from the USA, Canada, UK and around the world, which show that the recent rise in homelessness can be reversed.

“With political commitment and leadership, we can end homelessness and street sleeping for good. We call on your political party to make a clear manifesto commitment, to an ambitious new national initiative, to end homelessness,” Saffrey continues, stressing that effective action on homelessness needs strong leadership and coordinated work across government and community organisations, the Psychiatric Hospital, health agencies, the Welfare Department, the police and housing agencies.

In the actual proposal, suggestions given by the BVHS for ending homelessness include: Preventing people from sleeping on the streets in the first place, by using the BVHS Homelessness Reduction Proposal and embedding homelessness prevention priorities across key government departments, to guarantee early intervention work, including the provision of a shelter in Barbados, to ensure that no one comes onto the streets, especially women and children. Providing a robust response to get people off the streets by making sure emergency accommodation is available to support homeless people getting away from the streets quickly. This new initiative must also tackle chronic homelessness and vagrancy, by allocating a building to be used as a 24/7 shelter, with government providing funding and technical assistance, with additional support to tackle the mental health crisis keeping people stuck on our streets. Finally, ensuring that people do not return to the streets, by securing yearly funding for The Barbados Vagrants & Homeless Society, providing a vital route off the streets, and exploring ways to develop affordable, permanent homes for people affected by homelessness, including Housing First solutions. (RSM)

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