Men living under St Mary bridge hoping for better yearSunday, January 03, 2021
BY HG HELPS
They have been living under a bridge longer than even they can remember.
Daniel Stewart and Nicholas Rowe are on one side below the roadway at Heywood Hall, central St Mary, not too far from the entrance to the other popular community of Hampstead.
In a straight line, goats sit idly, following meals of lush green 'guinea' grass nearby. They look at the men in much the same way that the men look at them — the humans oftentime thinking what a great meal the animals could turn into, if they had their way.
A look to their left, in the midst of the noise of heavy-duty vehicles overhead, runs a stream of crystal clear water from the Llanrumney River, a tributary in effect, of the Pagee River that Corporate Area residents would stick tongues out for in times of drought.
But despite the scenic environment created by the tributary, the harsh reality is that the men are suffering. There are days when they do not eat, others when good Samaritans will stop, toot their horns, and wait a while for one of them to come rushing up north, in anticipation of something digestible.
They might even roam the bushes nearby to see if they can find anything edible on a given day.
Stewart is from the belly of Heywood Hall; Rowe hails from Spanish Town, the St Catherine capital which was Jamaica's chief town when it was under Spanish rule.
Both have one thing in common — they would welcome anyone, anything in their laps that would make their existence better.
Rain does not bother them that much, as the bridge overhead forms a sturdy roof, but the chills are not so friendly: “Sometimes we get really cold a night, an' we no have nutten fi cover wid,” Stewart said, glancing momentarily at a mattress one of them sleeps on, that garbage collectors would 'cut their eye' and walk past.
Other scraps of material are there too, including a suitcase resembling something that touted Jamaican discoverer Christopher Columbus might have left behind.
The Jamaica Observer, on a priority visit to the St Mary Infirmary, managed by the St Mary Municipal Corporation on New Year's Day, stopped to see members of local charity, Icons of Annotto Bay, start the year positively by purchasing food at nearby Sandside, on the outskirts of parish capital Port Maria and pass on to the men around 1:00 pm. It was their first meal of the day, of the year you might say.
“Me really thank you fi di food,” Stewart muttered after the gesture was made.
“Wa else you want now? You want a mask?” founder and president of Icons, former policeman Wyatt “Spur” Williams, asked.
“Yes, but me woulda tek a money from you,” the under-pressure man responded, to which Williams reacted in the affirmative.
“So how things with you?” Williams threw in another question, this time at Rowe.
“Things nuh so good enuh, but we haffi gwaan,” was his reply.
The rush of the tributary's water heading to link up with the larger water body caught almost everyone's attention again. “Oh, so soothing, so good for life's stresses,” one member of the group uttered in admiration of the water's flow.
“This is really a small world of opposites,” another group member suggested. “Over this side you have two men, homeless, undernourished and just not knowing where to turn for support. On the other side, there is this lovely body of water running that is so good to look at, and the goats over there don't seem to be bothered about anything at all.
“Something has to be done for these two men. I wonder if the infirmary could take them in and look after them. Maybe it's something we could check out with the parish council. At least they would get somewhere warm to stay at night, and food to eat every day,” the member suggested.
“I usually feed them every Thursday,” vice-president of Icons Pat Hucey chipped in. “There was only one of them at one point, but another one is here now. They really need help. They need a better place to stay.”
It was that sentiment that pushed Rowe's head up toward the sky. They continue to live in hope.
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