Number of Georgetown street dwellers reduced- Human Services Minister

Last Updated on Friday, 1 September 2023, 15:43 by Denis Chabrol

A street dweller outside the High Court, South Road, Georgetown.

The number of street dwellers in commercial Georgetown has been reduced significantly and a number of them have been trained and employed, according to Minister of Human Services and Social Security Dr Vindhya Persaud.

“Some people don’t like to abide by the rules. Some people like the street kind of conditions and some people refuse to move but we have- even though you’re seeing a lot- we have moved a lot of people and we’ll continue to do that through this initiative,” she told Demerara Waves Online News.

Latest unofficial figures show that there were an estimated 72 street dwellers in commercial Georgetown up to late August, 2023 compared to 134 in November 2021.  The bulk of them are still on Regent Street between Orange Walk and Cummings Street. There are also a few dwellers who smoke substances outside the southern doors of the High Court building, South Road, Georgetown.

Dr Persaud said the ongoing campaign has seen the removal of at least 60 homeless, poor and needy persons from streets dating back to 2022. She said they were being placed in the much-improved and spacious Night Shelter. “We’ve been consistently picking people up off the streets because we have teams designated for that from the night shelter,” she said.

The Ministry of Human Services and Social Security, she said, was work9ing very closely with the Ministry of Health in diagnosing and treating street dwellers for illnesses that are more likely to be found among people who live on the streets. “When they are brought it, they are given a thorough examination by Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation doctors and they are assessed for tuberculosis and, in some cases, COVID,” said the minister who is also a medical doctor.

In addition to being bathed, the Minister said rescued street dwellers were also being counselled in collaboration with the Mental Health Unit of the Ministry of Health.  If they are able-bodied, Dr Persaud said efforts are made to find them jobs or have them trained through the Board of Industrial Training.

She indicated that the hardest segment of the street dwellers to assist were substance abusers. Despite the fact that the Night Shelter provides care, comfort, shelter and food, she reiterated that many prefer street life. “There are those people who want to be on the streets,” she said.

With the law prohibiting the government from locking up street dwellers instead of placing them in the Night Shelter, she said eventually the Guyana government would be amending the law to empower Human Services Ministry personnel to remove street dwellers rather than rely on the police. She said the amended law would also provide for longer-term institutional care. “The law is very old and it has to be amended. It is on the list of those that we have to look at… The amendment will be a little more flexibility in terms of keeping them at the shelter,” she said.

Head of Solid Waste Management at the Georgetown City Council, Walter Narine had said that street dwellers are partly responsible for the untidy conditions of a number of streets because they remove waste from the bins and leave them on parapets and avenues.

Businesses also hire substance abusers and other street dwellers to dump garbage on parapets and vacant lands.