CUMI funding uncertain after street people inquiry
WESTERN BUREAU: Concerns have been raised that the Committee for the Upliftment of the Mentally Ill (CUMI), which roundly condemned last July’s street people removal and cover-up, may now lose some level of financial support.
According to Observer sources, business and government bodies that have assisted the institution in the past have been less forthcoming since the street people inquiry.
CUMI was at the forefront of a public lobby for a commission of inquiry to uncover the truth about the illegal abduction of more than 30 mentally ill and homeless persons from Montego Bay who were trucked to St Elizabeth and abandoned.
During the inquiry, fingers were pointed at some of the tourist resort city’s leading businessmen and members of the ruling People’s National Party.
CUMI chairman, Liz Hall, acknowledged that she had also heard rumours that CUMI’s funding could be cut as a backlash for their vocal calls for answers about the July round-up.
“I sincerely hope that anybody that has the real interest of the rehabilitation of the street people at heart and who has been consistently giving to CUMI and been aware of the results we are getting, would never consider cutting off funding to us,” Hall said.
While she could not confirm that CUMI has lost the support of some of its regular patrons, treasurer, Janet Ansang, told the Observer that donations for this financial year have been slow in coming.
“Normally, at this time of the year we would have heard from TPDCo (Tourism Product Development Company) and the (Montego Bay) Chamber (of Commerce and Industry,” she said.
“To date, we have not; so we have decided to write to them again to ask if they will continue to support us. We’re not saying they have stopped (helping us), but usually at this time of year, they would have given a commitment already. Everything has been silent since the street people incident.”
When the Observer contacted TPDCo head, Carl Binger, he was unable to say whether they would continue to fund the non-profit organisation.
“I’m not saying yea or nay at this time because we are revisiting our budget because we’ve had many cuts since last year,” he said.
He stressed that their shrinking budget would affect all their projects, and not just CUMI, to whom they have donated $6.7 million since 1995.
However, Hall was confident that TPDCo would continue to provide financial assistance.
“I haven’t heard anything definite yet, but I’m expecting that we’ll continue to get funding from TPDCo,” she said. “They’ve been helping us from 1995, so I see no reason why we should not continue to get funding.”
But while the TPDCo funding may be uncertain at this point, Chamber president, Mark Kerr Jarrett, said his organisation would continue to provide funding for CUMI.
“We haven’t made our budget yet, but we’re having a directors’ meeting next Wednesday (where the budget will be discussed),” he said. “After that meeting, we’ll definitely continue to support them.”
The Chamber and TPDCo have provided a steady source of funding for CUMI over the years, and the withdrawal of that support base would be a major blow.
It costs the non-profit body roughly $1.8 million each year to provide three meals a day, medication and rehabilitation for between 25 and 30 individuals. They are currently trying to establish a trust fund, as a way to remove some of the uncertainty about their every day existence.
It is called the Paul Eldemire Trust Fund, and the target is $15 million. So far, they have only managed to raise $2.9 million.
“We need to have that fund so that our basic, everyday expenses can be taken care of, and so we can maintain the programme where it is,” Hall said. “Right now, CUMI exists from month to month because we have no guaranteed funding.”