Homelessness neglected by government

| 13/02/2015 | 18 Comments
Cayman News Service

Homeless people in George Town

(CNS): While some reject the idea that homeless people are a significant issue in Cayman, more and more anecdotal evidence is emerging that there is a growing number of families and individuals who do not have a secure place to live. Despite repeated requests over the last two months to the Community Affairs Ministry for statistics or a policy position regarding homelessness, we have received no information and it appears the CIG has no policy on the issue.

At the end of last year a number of readers sent in pictures of people who had been sleeping on benches along the harbourfront in George Town. Yesterday CNS confirmed that at least one person was sleeping on a bench in the downtown area. In addition, CNS and other media outlets have received increasing anecdotal reports and evidence of people living in their cars or on the streets.

The courts are often forced to jail teenagers and people with mental health problems charged with minor offences because they do not have secure or permanent homes and cannot therefore be bailed. However, government does not appear to have any up-to-date or reliable statistics documenting the number of people without a permanent home, nor does it seem to have any defined policies to address the problem.

In the first instance government does not appear to have a definition of homelessness. While there may not yet be noticeable numbers of people sleeping rough, as illustrated in the picture above, it is believed that there are many people  ‘bunking with’ or temporarily staying in the homes of family or friends, sleeping on sofas or hammocks,without any security of tenure or living in their cars.

There are also many families with young children staying in substandard accommodation – often in makeshift premises with no planning permission and therefore no connection to essential utilities, such as water and power.

As well as those who are moving from place to place or living in substandard, poorly built homes, the government is also still wrestling with the problem of affordable accommodation and the re-housing of tenants currently living in the now condemned low-cost housing in West Bay and George Town.

A recent update from the National Housing and Development Trust revealed that there are 27 Affordable Houses in the old housing sites in Apple Blossom Gardens and on Eastern Avenue.

Officials said of these eleven are clients on the old AHI mortgage lease-to-own arrangement and the remaining sixteen are on old rental agreements but none of them are in good standing with the NHDT on payment of either mortgages or rent, with some behind on payments by as much as five years.

Officials from the NHDT confirmed that it had carried out the required assessment exercise on the people living in the homes ahead of plans to demolish them as they have been identified as unsafe and no longer fit for human habitation. The review was undertaken in partnership with the Needs Assessment Unit at the Department of Children and Family Services.

“The outcomes of these assessment have been presented to the ministry for further review and consideration as it was concluded that the other issues with respect to these clients that extend beyond their basic accommodation needs. The NHDT is still awaiting a response on how to address these issues,” a spokesperson stated.

While the government remains in limbo regarding its approach to those at the bottom of the socio-economic pile who can no longer afford to buy or build their own homes or pay rent for a home, concerns are growing that the authorities are underestimating the extent of the problem and are ill-prepared to deal with what is likely to become a housing crisis among the local population in the very near future.

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Category: Local News

Comments (18)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    What kind of society do we live in where there are people walking the streets looking for food and shelter on a daily basis. Why do we have a government? What the hell? people in medieval times were helped more by the community than us today. Government does nothing. Sit’s back and continues to suck the money out of the low and middle wage working class while they do nothing to help the mentally ill and homeless. They are more concerned about there own wealth and power. They dont give a damn about us. Wanna prove it? Become homeless. oh and the pych ward on gt hospital is a joke.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Use the civic centers for the housing. There is one in every district.

  3. Y says:

    The fowls have truly come home to roost…. this is the price we are now paying for allowing the development of our country and not our people. This is what happens when you combine a heartless conscienceless private sector with a lackadaisical government who shamelessly misgoverned our people and the resources of the people while paying themselves a royal wage. Still 30% of the workforce remains below the minimum wage,thousands of Caymanians out of work while employers are allowed to take out thousands of work permits and the list of atrocities goes on. Is it any surprise that we now have a homeless problem to add to our long and growing list of social ills,too much time wasted paying lip service to major national issues such as the landfill instead of resolving the problem within one political administration. Career politicians are responsible for all these woes and hopefully we will soon see an article featured on the flaws and pitfalls of having no term limits included in our recently revised constitution. It’s not too late to enact change but for any change to be effective and sustainable it must begin at the top. Afterall, if the source of a river is dirty the water can never be clean…. this is why human beings are supposedly ruled by their head.

  4. Anonymous says:

    It really simple to understand the social ills as all you have to do is think of this scenario:-
    You dress you lil son or daughter in their Sunday best and trot them out for the island to see and applaud how pretty the lil son or daughter looks in their pretty clothes UNTIL they throw a tantrum or open their mouth and the 10lb words drop!!
    You stand there, as a parent, all aghast and disappointed
    Well it’s the same with our island home. We “dress” it up and laud the 500 banks and offshore companies and invite investors and then BANG……they live here and they SEE the poor, the mentally ill, the shacks, the wages paid for an hour’s work, the homeless, the robberies, the gun violence, the boys AND adult men showing their backsides and underwear with pants too big, the “graduates” who can’t write or read!!
    Hmmmmm………just like your lil boy or gir who LOOKED so handsome or pretty UNTIL they opened their mouth and out came the vulgar language!!
    Yup……sold it as GOLD but it turned out to be gold-filled!! And that my friend is OUR problem…….Think we can continue to DRESS UP social ills OR think we can HIDE them!! Didn’t work anywhere else in the world ie USA and UK so why we thought it would here is too great for me to wrap around my head…….And that is the truth

    • Anonymous says:

      When Truman Bodden was Minister of Education, he said no gangs were in the schools they were groups. Now those groups have come back to haunt us in the form of criminality and homelessness. Had they worked, saved and built an homes they would have somewhere to live, but like the majority below the poverty line, they all expect the government to maintain them.
      We created that lean on government mentality.

      • Anonymous says:

        I am not a fan of Truman Bodden but I think we need to stop harking back to his silly comments about gangs and deal with the present. I have a collection of idiotic statements I have heard over the years from many politicians-Roy, Benson, Linford, Gilbert, Tom, Frank to name only a few of the educated ones and not mention the bus drivers and others who were elected in the “broomstick days”. Let’s move on. Truman’s silly comment did not CREATE the gangs-their parents did.

  5. Anonymous says:

    The homelessness in Cayman is a stark in-your-face glaring reality that is mainly because our beloved PPM Gov’t in an act of punishment to then UDP party, blindly and/or deliberately removed the “supporting arms” to the housing started by then UDP Govt.
    I found that the social housing program formed by UDP did fail because the other essential parts to make the housing program work such as the community services and facilities were uprooted and thrown out. These other supporting elements:- the community services etc would have made the social housing programme effective. The homes were not poorly built; but became delapidated because there were no supporting system either by PWD or given to private sector to do; to keep them updated and the areas clean and tidy.
    Sad but I thought we weren’t supposed to throw the baby out with the bathwater? Whatever happened to that?
    It is a sad reality that we have our own Caymanians who are so spiteful that they will go to any lengths in order to destroy and criticise any form of social support for the poor of our society. I cannot fathom how Caymanians think that our society isn’t as all others ie Rich, Middle and Poor. But that doesn’t mean that ONLY the top tier has dreams, aspirations and desires. And neither does it mean that we should make life so difficult that the middle-class gradually slips and expands the poor?? No we should be minimising the POOR BRACKET. And helping them to move UP into the lower-end of middle-class. Let us NEVER forget that ALL citizens need shelter; NOT just UDP or PPM supporters; ALL Caymanians regardless of political affiliation or not deserve to have their basic needs met. ALL citizens!!!
    BUT we have a load in our hands and on our plate in regards social problems and regardless of whether we want to admit or not that we DO the truth is we have the stark reality IN OUR FACE

    • Driftpat says:

      Maybe the same reason we closed down Community College with it’s mechanic, electrical, woodwork, bodywork workshops etc., and replaced it with a university. Now we hire expats to do the trade work. Any logic in all this?

      • Anonymous says:

        I was a teacher in the early days of the Community College. Caymanians did not want their kids to learn these manual trades-they were for (in these days) “Jamaicians”. So the College became an empire building “academic” place under a president whose wife was his boss and later a politician who wants everyone to know how brilliant he is (despite the poor literary quality of his self published books).

  6. Expat Blank Cheque says:

    The airport park at night was being used for over two years by a family who slept in their vehicle but so long as its Caymanians the present government couldn’t give a $#@! and when it was brought to one minister’s attention his exact words to persons were “Caymanians need to suckit up! ” Tell you one thing ain’t no work permit holders on that bench???? Car, Rent, house, utilities and school fees paid up Taken care of Bizzness everyday. Salary & Benefits wrapped tighter than aluminium foil.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I have noticed in Cayman that there is no history of sustained interventions. Instead they come and go. In this case build a few social houses and, as a previous poster said, put families in them with no thought of a programme to sustain them in those houses etc. When are we going to wake up to the fact that success does not come easily and throwing money at a problem is not a solution. Sustained, targeted interventions over a long period with support mechanisms that address ALL of the needs of family is the way to go.

  8. Anonymous says:

    As usual denial is the Cayman way of looking at problems. Go down around the catboat building next to the Lobster Pot and see the men sleeping on benches.
    There are no gangs only groups…

  9. The reason why the social housing programme (launched by Herr Doktor Frank McField way back in 2003) failed was because the other essential leg of the programme- the provision of community services and facilities- was dismembered and trashed. These facilities were intended to provide the support system necessary for the social housing programme to work, and the PPM government of the time, in an act of ill-considered revenge, eradicated any form of social support connection to the nascent housing initiative- even deleting the reference to community development from the housing trust’s name.

    An inspection of the surviving houses reveals that it was not poor design that doomed these houses- it was a lack of maintenance and outright vandalism. Social housing is not simply building shelters and then sticking indigent families in them to fend for themselves.

    A more responsible approach is necessary for success, and the gut Doktor’s more inclusive programme, imperfect as it may have been, was never allowed to mature into an effective social housing programme and CI$15m of taxpayers’ money was wasted as a consequence.

    What a crying shame…

  10. Anonymous says:

    This is just the standard ‘ignore it and it’ll go away’ approach to problems by civil servants and elected representatives. The French government did it for years until finally it turned round and bit them.

  11. Anonymous says:

    There is already a housing crisis and government choose to ignore it. Ask any social worker about the housing conditions of even those with a roof over their head. Some conditions are very similar to that of the third world which is pitiful in a supposedly first world country. Wake up Cayman. If you do not, you will be paying the price later with crime, drugs, alcohol abuse, violence a disenfranchised youth.

    • CFE says:

      I think we are already paying the price…this doesn’t account for the people who are living out of cars etc…the cost of living is to much to bear for many who make under $20,000 per year…not to mention the people with mental health issues (know to GTH) who choose to go un-treated and are allowed to keep and be responsible for their children…the problems of this country are much larger than the people wish to acknowledge…

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