The San Fernando Centre for Displaced Persons re-opened its doors to the homeless yesterday. In January, the centre opened for just one day but there was no board in place. That problem has been resolved and San Fernando Mayor Junia Regrello conformed that a new board will be installed next Wednesday during the San Fernando City Corporation’s statutory meeting.
The project is the brainchild of Rural Development and Local Government Minister Kazim Hosein who was the centre for the re-opening yesterday when more than 75 street dwellers were provided with hot meals, baths, hair cuts, clothes, medical check-ups, manicures and pedicures.
Asad Yacoobali, who will be in charge of the centre said the plan is to eventually rehabilitate and reintegrate the homeless back into society.
“This is an effort to reach out to the homeless within San Fernando and it is not only that we want to feed them just for today, but we want to develop this into something more. We have a beautiful centre here that was cleaned yesterday by CEPEP and we want to make use of this facility to facilitate some sort of rehabilitation for the homeless.
“We want to get them active, we want to get them moving, we want to see what their needs are and work with them in an effort to get them off the streets and give them a little more comfort and enjoyment in life,” he said.
Yacoobali thanked the Civilian Conservation Corps, South West Regional Health Authority, the barbers and those who donated clothes, food and other items.
Regrello, who appealed to citizens not to feed street dwellers in public, said: “People have been complaining about homeless people on the promenade and around San Fernando and the feeding in the public, which is not healthy...to be eating in the public in an exposed environment and more importantly, it contributes to the garbage on the streets. So we are going to put this in a very organised structured matter.
“We are asking the public to desist from feeding them there (on the streets). You can contact the Mayor’s office temporarily until we have an office.”
The mayor said the homeless population in San Fernando is about 145, but “because of our generosity and southern hospitality” more street dwellers are gravitating from central and north Trinidad to San Fernando.
He thanked the Revival Time Assembly for donating the building.
Asked whether the centre will eventually have to be relocated to make way for the San Fernando Waterfront Project, Regrello said he is confident someone will volunteer a building.
- by Sascha Wilson