MANDEVILLE, Manchester — The Government and private sector are being encouraged to give greater support to facilitate an upgrade of a drop-in centre in Mandeville that caters to homeless people.
According to Candle in the Dark Empowerment Centre chair Wendy Freckleton, there is great need to upgrade the facility to a transitional centre, which would allow homeless people to remain there until they are able to find permanent accommodation elsewhere.
Currently, the drop-in centre is able to provide basic services, such as food, a shower, and a change of clothes, for people who come off the street.
Freckleton said that, as the situation now exists, resources are insufficient to meet the needs of people living on the streets of Mandeville.
“While Candle in the Dark receives assistance from the Government, it is merely enough to satisfy the demand, plus what they really contribute towards is food items, but we have other expenses,” Freckleton told a donor appreciation ceremony at the drop-in centre last Thursday.
“We have staff to pay the maintenance and, of course, our utilities, so there are many things at Candle that we have to take care of,” she said.
Freckleton said over the past four years there has been an increase in the number of homeless people in Manchester, with about 80 per cent of them moving from other parishes.
“The challenge is great, and so the Government needs to start looking at ways in which they can not only treat homelessness, but prevent [it],” she told her audience consisting of religious, business, and community leaders.
“I saw Minister [Desmond] McKenzie opening a transitional centre recently and we want to ask that every region has a transitional facility,” she added in reference to last month’s opening of the $140-million Desmond McKenzie Transitional Centre for the Homeless in downtown Kingston.
She pointed out that people become homeless for various reasons, including family feud, felonies, mental and physical conditions, or they become detached from society.
“We have seen people who grew up in institutions. We have seen quite a few youngsters [who] by the time they reach 18 they are turned out on the streets... and that is why we need transitional facilities so that these people can have a place to call home for six months to a year until they can find a way out,” she said.
Manchester, Freckleton added, has become a very vulnerable parish.
“There are many people in Manchester who are living below the poverty line, especially the elderly who are unable to take care of themselves. The Government needs a special programme and a system where they can ensure that they take better care of the less fortunate,” she said.
Pointing out that Candle in the Dark conducts outreach programmes to feed families daily in communities surrounding Mandeville such as Greenvale, Freckleton said, “If these people don’t receive a meal from Candle in the Dark they have nothing to eat for that day.”
Candle in the Dark is a non-profit organisation which has been in existence for over 26 years. It was started by the late Jennifer Reid and her husband Dr Art Reid. In 2018 Freckleton took over the operations, explaining that, “Mrs Reid had passed on and Dr Reid was unable to manage due to age.”
Freckleton reflected on taking the mantle at a time when the facility’s future was uncertain.
“Four years ago when I was approached by Dr Reid to get involved with Candle in the Dark, it was on the brink of closing the following day. I had to get creative and solicited the support of the private sector and my friends,” she said.
“Since I took over the organisation our coffers have never been empty. We thank each and every one of you here today for playing your part in ensuring that our brothers and sisters living on the streets are properly cared for. This is a true testimony that, ‘One one coco full basket,’ ” she added.
Thirty donors – financial institutions, businesses, and stakeholders – including the Jamaica Observer, were recognised for support of the facility’s mental health and community outreach programmes.
“The mission must be to rid our streets of the homeless and ensure that they have a proper place to stay and, of course, become productive members of our society. As a community we cannot allow for so many people to be living on our streets as it will soon create a health and sanitation hazard, especially in the town of Mandeville,” Freckleton said.
She said donations can be made to FirstCaribbean International Bank chequing account number 1000077411 in the name of Candle in the Dark, Mandeville Branch. Freckleton can be reached at 876-881-5968.