Candle in the Dark

A refuge for Manchester's homeless, destitute

Observer staff reporter

Monday, October 22, 2018

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MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Though making an impact in the Mandeville community for more than two decades, non-profit Candle in the Dark Care Centre can still be considered as a little-known organisation to many residents.

However, to those who have found themselves homeless or destitute it has been their refuge for meals, a place to shower, get a change of clothing and footwear, and receive medical care.

Dr Arthur Reid and his late wife Jennifer started the charitable efforts from humble beginnings in 1995. Being ministers of religion, among their other endeavours, spiritual and emotional sustenance was included as a hallmark of the service to the homeless.

Since 2004, they have cemented the organisation's home at Caledonia Road with a building provided by Kiwanis International after a 49-year-lease-deal made with the National Land Agency, on a property close to the Mandeville Regional Hospital.

Through private and public sector funds, other voluntary support and personal investment the founders were able to sustain the entity.

Then in January, Jennifer Reid, who was instrumental in the daily operation of the homeless facility, passed on. Dr Reid told the Jamaica Observer Central that in order to manage the funeral expenses the doors were closed in February. It re-opened in late May.

Following the re-opening, Reid said, he had to cover some expenses with personal funds as some of sources of support were no longer in place. The situation was desperate.

It was then that former president of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce and businesswoman, Wendy Freckleton, was engaged to assist in keeping the work alive through the involvement of more stakeholders.

A number of organisations and individuals have come on board to help the facility.

At a function on the grounds of Candle in the Dark on October 10, which is recognised as World Homeless Day, Dr Reid described the commitments as a “giant stride” in moving forward.

Guests heard that it takes over $2 million annually to cover expenses and different speakers reiterated the need for the interest from partners to continue even if only in small ways.

“I want us to understand that homelessness is everybody's business,” said Dr Bridgette Barrett who is known for her ongoing support of the homeless population.

She placed into perspective the thin line between having the comfort of a shelter to finding oneself on the street, by outlining circumstances such as a costly medical bill, a home destroyed by fire, a family not wanting one of their own around because of sexual orientation or a behavioural problem and generally a weak support system.

Barrett encouraged the audience to get to know the persons on the street, adding that they do not all have mental health issues.

Jones Oliphant, councillor for the Mandeville Division, lauded the efforts of Candle in the Dark and gave a commitment to provide $20, 000 per quarter towards the upkeep.

He used the occasion to put forward the Manchester Municipal Corporation's goal to have the care of the homeless be streamlined.

“There are some people who feel compelled to feed our people on the street. As a Municipal Corporation we are trying to get away from that. We feel that these people should have a place where they should eat (comfortably), where bathroom facilities should be available that they can use and if they have to be on the street they must be there decently and in order. We have always encouraged people, rather than feeding them on the street, we take them here,” said Oliphant.

While Barrett said that she fully agrees about the need for structure she urged that policies and procedures be implemented in a practical manner.

She said that some of the homeless people do not like to leave where they reside on the street and some simply do not have a sense about timing and would not be able to know when to be at Candle in the Dark to benefit from a meal and they should not be deprived.

“Whatever we put in place has to speak to their context and their needs. Whatever we do, it cannot be business as usual or the same approach, because this is a special population that we are dealing with,” she said.

Barrett, a development practitioner, said that in addition to the immediate needs of the homeless such as meals each day there are medium and long term plans for the homeless in Mandeville. These include trying to remove some from the street permanently and providing families with the requisite skills to help their relatives who are on the streets. She noted that some people may want to take home relatives with mental problems but they do not know how to care for them.

Freckleton said that Candle in the Dark is well-run and has organised records but is a family setting for beneficiaries.

Contributions can be made to First Caribbean International Bank Account #1000077411; Dr Arthur Reid can be contacted at 876-625-0539 and and visits can be made to the facility at 10 Caledonia Road in Mandeville.

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