PORT of Spain Mayor Lee Sing claimed yesterday that the Housing and Development Corporation (HDC) was contributing to the street-dwelling population by kicking out tenants who had nowhere else to go.
Lee Sing said he has been informed of at least one case, where the son of a deceased tenant was evicted and whose income could not support a private rental fee. The man had been paying the rent while his father was alive, Lee Sing said.
"The Government must not add to the problem," Lee Sing said at yesterday's statutory meeting of the Port of Spain Corporation, at City Hall.
He called on HDC Chairman Jearlean John to revisit the agency's policy so as to avoid contributing to the street-dwelling population.
Speaking to Express yesterday on John's behalf, HDC Public Relations Officer, Renata Jones, said while the case referred to by the mayor was not clear, it might be that the agency was trying to substantiate the man's claim to tenancy.
Jones said it was not the policy of the HDC to create homelessness but there were many false claims to tenancy.
Transfer is not automatic if the tenant, with whom the HDC has a lease, has not mentioned the claimant in any of the agency's updating exercises. The HDC must then take time to determining whether the claimant is entitled, Jones said.
Lee Sing was criticised for a clean-up exercise last week, in which 30 street-dwellers were netted and taken to court but were not all placed in appropriate facilities afterwards.
Some, found with weapons, were sent to jail, while others were sent to the St Ann's Mental Hospital. Some were released back onto the streets.
Lee Sing said he recently met with a group of citizens who live at the Residence for the Socially Displaced, one of whom was the former HDC tenant mentioned above, and was told that they had been ordered by the Ministry of Social development to leave the facility.
This was a puzzling move, Lee Sing said, and the residents have no homes to go to.
"Where will they go? Tamarind Square?" Lee Sing asked.
Lee Sing yesterday accepted that proper facilities should be in place before such exercises are conducted in earnest but said this and successive governments have dallied on the challenge for too long.
He has tried to meet again with Social Development Minister, Dr Glenn Ramadharsingh, to iron out a better plan, he said.
Ramadharsingh cancelled a meeting Wednesday, Lee Singh said, to attend the funeral of former United National Congress (MP) MP and former Chairman of the Environmental Management Authority (EMA), Kelvin Ramnath.
Lee Sing said he hoped Ramadharsingh would make it to another meeting soon.
"I was anxiously awaiting Minister Ramadharsingh yesterday," Lee Sing said.
The Mayor said Ramadharsingh had promised that a policy document would be in the making for a street-dweller programme and he hoped it would be fast-tracked.