Can we commit to bringing dignity to our fellow man, the destitute

Monday, October 08, 2018

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Dear Editor,

It ought to be a concern of all of us that more and more of our fellow citizens are falling through the social safety net and are ending up on the streets in various capacities.

There is a proliferation of illegal “robot” taxis. These are unlicensed passenger vehicles being operated by individuals who, in many instances, are out of a job and have turned to the use of their main asset, the motor car, in order to earn badly needed funds for members of their families and themselves.

Being not licensed for public passenger purposes there is no insurance coverage provided for those taking these vehicles as passengers. However, citizens take them in an effort to go about their business because of a lack of proper public transportation, especially in the rural areas.

Then there are many itinerant vendors along the streets at busy intersections, especially at traffic lights in the towns. These vendors peddle all sorts of items, including food items, and some can be very aggressive at times.

There are also windscreen wipers at several intersections in urban areas. These are young men, many of whom are rude and aggressive. They are particularly aggressive towards female motorists, who they believe they can do anything to and get away with it. From time to time the police will act to remove these aggressive individuals; however, it is not long before they return.

There are also beggars along our streets, mainly at intersections. Some of these beggars look like healthy, strong individuals who should be able to find a job for themselves rather than becoming professional beggars. Yes, there are professional beggars. These are the people who craftily act like they are disabled, like they are mentally retarded, visually challenged, or like they are destitute, when in fact by the end of the day they repair to their communities and become normal once more, buying a drink in the bar, playing games on the street side, or just going about their lives like any working person.

There are, however, people who are genuinely impoverished and have ended up on the street because they have nowhere else to live. Some sleep on shop piazzas, some sleep on the sidewalk, some in gullies, and some in public parks. Younger Jamaicans have now become accustomed to “street people”, that is to say peoples who live on the street. However, there was a time when our country was never so cold, distant and insensitive to the suffering of the less fortunate citizens. Several of the street people are in desperate need of care and assistance.

It is a distressful experience each day walking to the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal on King Street in Kingston and passing several street people in the most terrible condition that no human being should exist in. In some instances, as we pass these street people the stench of decaying flesh assaults our nostrils telling us very forcibly how unsanitary and unhealthy the condition these citizens are in.

The country, and in particular young people, is in a sense being made accustomed to the several desperate street people, and it is now almost accepted that this is how Jamaica, land we love, should be, but it should not be accepted. Our Government, over the years, has comprised men and women who have expressed a commitment to and a belief in Christian principles. Why then have they not maintained their duty to be their brothers' keeper? Can we convince the Government to make a commitment to rescue our citizens on the streets who are unkempt, un-bathed, semi-clothed, smelly, hungry, and often eating from garbage containers? Can we convince the churches, especially those with the magnificent buildings all over Jamaica, to make a collective commitment to demand that the Government joins them in rescuing our fellow citizens from the streets? Can we get a commitment from the political Opposition to join the Government in a non-partisan effort and bring human dignity to our fellow man and rescue our citizens who are destitute, and thereby take the shame out of our eyes?

Linton P Gordon

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