$8.5m to tackle vagrancy problem
Cabinet has approved $8.5 million to establish an Inter Agency Unit (IAU) in the Ministry of the People which will be responsible for removing street dwellers and helping them get back on their feet.
Speaking at the post-Cabinet news conference at the Office of the Prime Minister, St Clair, Minister of the People Dr Glenn Ramadharsingh said yesterday the money will also be used to establish displacement centres in Port of Spain and Chaguanas — the first two areas which will be targeted and which will get two mobile clinics.
The IAU will be responsible for the referral or transfer of street dwellers from various parts of the country.
An inter-ministerial committee will be established and will have ten weeks to advise the minister on key issues surrounding the initiative.
Rehabilitation and assessment centres will be established in Port of Spain and Chaguanas.
Within nine months of the establishment of the unit, Ramadharsingh said, the programme will be expanded to Arima and San Fernando.
The ministry will be looking for suitable non-governmental organisations (NGOs) who can compassionately and competently run the street dweller assistance and accommodation centres.
These centres will provide meals, baths and other basic amenities for citizens in need.
Ramadharsingh said the private sector will also be engaged to contribute in this drive.
Noting the problems in the past to keep people off the streets, Ramadharsingh said that consideration is being given to use plainclothes police officers to remove them in collaboration with trained mental health and field officers.
Another option under consideration, he said, is to give specially trained mental health officers or field officers the power of arrest.
Ramadharsingh noted that one of the most heart-wrenching problems with street dwellers is that many were children.
In Tobago, he said, a care centre for socially displaced children will be established.