McKenzie to meet Golden Age Home management today

McKenzie to meet Golden Age Home management today

Staff reporter

Thursday, July 16, 2020

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FALMOUTH, Trelawny — Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie is expected to meet with the management of Golden Age Home later today to investigate claims by a former resident that he was discharged and dumped at an “abandoned building” with no electricity or door in downtown Kingston.

“I have invited the board of supervision and management of the Vineyard Town Golden Age Home to meet with me tomorrow [today] to look and to listen about what took place,” McKenzie stated.

He referenced the Jamaica Observer lead story on Monday reporting a number of complaints made by 67-year-old Louis Lyons.

“I am not prepared to make any public statement on the matter until I have the full report about what has taken place, McKenzie said.

Lyons had claimed he was duped into signing a voluntary discharge form on the basis that he would be moved from Golden Age Home to a habitable space.

“I signed a document and the reason I signed is because they said they would fix this place. I would never want to move into an abandoned building. I am looking for some legal assistance to challenge them because I would never sign to come into an abandoned building without no light. I am more intelligent than that. They will try to make it [his account of what transpired] different from what it is,” Lyons told the Observer.

But Matthew Smith Barrett, who serves as director/chair of the home's Finance and Resource Mobilisation Committee and a member of the Governance Committee, denied Lyons' claims, stating instead that he was voluntarily discharged from the facility and that he had actually chosen his new home.

“Mr Lyons informed us that he has his own finances and as such, he wanted voluntary discharge. The social worker would have made checks on the premises. He [Lyons] identified those premises. It was a voluntary discharge, it wasn't us putting him out,” Smith Barrett said, noting that Lyons's quest for justice could be based on the realisation that he cannot finance his livelihood.

“He found the place but apparently found he could not finance his bills, so he is trying to sue us to take care of him while he is at this abode that was chosen by him. He identified the premises. It was a voluntary discharge, it wasn't us putting him out, and we don't have obligations for persons who are not in our care at the location,” Smith Barrett told the Observer.

But speaking at the official opening of the Trelawny drop-in centre in Falmouth, McKenzie asserted that Lyons' claim of ill treatment is in stark contradiction to the manner in which the Andrew Holness-led Administration treats the poverty-stricken.

“I have to use this platform this morning to say that the front page of the daily newspaper is not reflective of the Government of Andrew Holness's response to the poor and destitute in this country,” the local government minister said.

“We are not here to abuse and to turn out and to disadvantage anyone who relies on the State for assistance. And once I am fully abreast of the circumstances then we will take the necessary steps that are required to ensure that at the end of the day we are doing the right thing,” McKenzie said.

“This Administration of Andrew Holness has provided more funds for the destitute of this country more than any other Administration has done since 1944,” McKenzie claimed. “The records are there to prove it. And we are committed to change as best as possible as we can the conditions of these people. We have built these facilities [drop-in centres] because there is a set of Jamaicans that have been forgotten. There are more than 2,000 Jamaicans who are living on the streets of this country, in sub-human conditions. The largest population of street people live in my constituency on the streets of downtown Kingston.”

Added McKenzie: “It is the intention of this Administration when we get into the next term to spend more.”

He noted that the Trelawny drop-in centre was the fifth such facility he was opening since he became minister of local government in 2016.

““St Ann has benefited from a facility like this, Hanover, St Mary, St Elizabeth, and I am now here in Falmouth. One in St Thomas is almost completed,” McKenzie said.

Homeless people in Falmouth and neighbouring districts will now be accommodated at the drop-in centre where they will be provided with meals, a place to shower and rest.

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