Jamaica’s first adult transitional centre for the homeless opened
Prime Minister Andrew Holness (second right), unveils a commemorative plaque mounted at the front of the $140 million Desmond McKenzie Transitional Centre for the Homeless in downtown Kingston, during the facility’s official opening on Friday (May 28). Applauding (from second left) are: Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Desmond McKenzie, and Mayor of Kingston, Senator Councillor Delroy Williams. At left is Minister McKenzie’s wife, Marcia McKenzie. (Photo:JIS)

KINGSTON, Jamaica— Prime Minister Andrew Holness officially opened the country’s first adult transitional facility for homeless people living on the streets, on Friday (May 27).

The centre, developed at a cost of $140 million, is named the ‘Desmond McKenzie Transitional Centre for the Homeless’, in honour of the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, who was instrumental in its establishment.

The state-of-the-art facility, located at 163-167 King Street in downtown Kingston, will cater to people living on the Corporate Area’s streets.

The centre, which will be open 24 hours, currently has the capacity to house 40 people for whom it will serve as a shelter and rehabilitative service point.

It is intended to aid in the holistic renewal of the lives of clients, who will benefit from protection and specialised care.

Holness, who noted that “homelessness is a devastating, dangerous and isolating reality for too many Jamaicans”, said the facility’s commissioning “is yet another tangible statement of what this Government is doing to help the poor and vulnerable in our society.”

He said it is anticipated that the repurposed facility, which was an abandoned dental office, will serve as an example of service excellence as regards improved care offerings to the poor and vulnerable.

The Prime Minister informed that the transitional centre would offer specific services that are broader ranged than those provided at other care facilities such as drop-in centres and the infirmaries.

He maintained that the aim is to provide a more intensive series of holistic approaches to rehabilitative care.

“In this sense, users will not only have access to regular services, such as shower facilities, bedding, change of clothes and meals, but will be provided with other critical services such as psychiatric care, counselling/rehabilitation, occupational therapy, social reintegration and full medical treatment, which seek to address a more transformative and holistic form of care deemed more sustainable and beneficial,” he added.

Holness emphasised that the provision of medical treatment is particularly important, as studies have shown that homeless people, in general, are six times more likely than housed populations to become ill or infected with diseases.

The Prime Minister further noted that the centre is suitably located at King Street to cater to the homeless in Kingston and St Andrew which, according to the 2017 Point in Time Survey on Homelessness, accounts for 60 per cent of the approximately 2,000 people living on the streets.

In this regard, Holness indicated that the second phase of the project will see the addition of another floor to the building, which will increase the centre’s capacity to 100 people.

In his remarks, Minister McKenzie, who is a former Councillor and Mayor of Kingston, said he was pleased that the centre is now operational.

“It is a journey that I am happy has manifested itself to the point where we can officially open this facility. This is what we need to do to respond to the plight of [the homeless]… many of [whom] have contributed to the growth and development of Jamaica,” he said.

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