FIFTY-six-year-old Marcia Brissett has been living on the streets of downtown Kingston ever since her Tivoli Gardens home was burnt to the ground in 2010 during the unrest in that community.
Today, she roams the streets looking for food and a warm place to sleep. Sometimes her efforts are in vain. At other times, like Saturday, they pay off.
"Mi glad seh oonu come and mi am glad you come and talk to mi. Thank God for the people who come out here and give us this likkle food," said Brissett, one of about 150 homeless persons fed by members of the Rotaract Club of New Kingston
Members of the club set up a tent outside the Supreme Court building on King Street from which they served warm lunches and drink to the homeless.
"I don't afraid for you to take my picture; mi want you to take it so my children in foreign can see. I help them reach there and now they are living big life while other people affi out here a feed mi," said Brissett, breaking into tears as she ate.
The woman -- her face sunburned, clothes tattered, and with a safety-pin in each ear serving as makeshift earrings -- said her life changed following the incursion by members of the security forces into the community.
Police and soldiers engaged armed thugs who had been holed up in the community during a two-day stand-off, as they attempted to facilitate an extradition request for former West Kingston strongman Christopher 'Dudus' Coke. Coke was later arrested and is now serving time in a United States prison on gun and drug charges.
Brissett is unsure whether it was the security forces or gunmen who set her house on fire during those tumultous days. However, she has not returned to the community since.
"I sleep all over; sometimes I sleep on the compound of the poor relief place on cardboard," she said, taking an asthma pump from her pocket. "See it here, mi get prescription for asthma and can't even full it. All mi pump is finishing now and I don't have any more," she said.
Saturday, Travis Graham, president of the Rotaract Club of New Kingston, said the feeding of the homeless in downtown Kingston is one of their annual activities.
"We do it twice a year... This year we decided to set up shop downtown because we know that this is a hub with a lot of homeless people. We prepared over 200 lunches," he said.
"We just want to show that young people are contributing to national development, helping with an immediate need. A lot of these homeless people have greater needs than food, but at least we can satisfy a specific need today," Graham said, noting that the Rotaract Club is made of young professionals between the ages of 18 and 30 years old.
The weekend initiative was made possible through donations from club members as well as a partnership with the Rotaract Club of St Marteen Nord.