The latest case coming to my attention is one nearing the Jones Town region of a seventeen year old teen whose father (mother is ill) decided he has to go since March of this year as he cannot afford to apparently raise a battyman (gay man). This new found resolve by the teen’s father came on the heels of an incident from last year with the young man and another teen in the housing scheme where an argument between the two stemming from an accusation of both young men suspected as being lovers and which also involved an alleged girl friend of the other party which has allegedly left the father of the teen being teased relentlessly at a bar he hangs out that his son will not produce him any grand children, whispers and verbal spats at the teen as he traverses the scheme and so it seems out of pressure from others he has capitulated. The displaced teen fears his father may physically abuse him so he only goes in at night when he can and does not enter the home but relies on the more openness of a cousin who may pass him some food items and clothing when he needs it but he has been staying at a friend’s but that time is soon ended as the host is asking for his space and costs are escalating.
It was only a few days ago I posted an entry on community based shelter assistance being available despite the costs and risks involved, many persons these days after hearing the horror stories of others who have opened their doors to help coupled with the perception of rowdy behaviour (a perception aided by the recent rejection in essence of the homeless groups in New Kingston by JFLAG and JASL over four years plus) the decision is made easier not to get involved at all and open their homes to help. Remote assistance may come from some who provide purchased cooked meals on weekends or second-hand or new clothes and shoes occasionally especially when nearing an upcoming LGBT event but as for a roof if only for however short a time the answer is usually a resounding No! The arson attack that occurred in the Waterhouse region last year of a popular community drag queen brings into sharp focus the realities out there that in helping certain categories of displaced MSM can come with unneeded consequences especially where profiling of persons is still a catalyst for homo-negative/phobic attacks. A more affluent gay man has picked up on this and despite the first anniversary of the murder of a former ally who also assisted me some time ago financially in providing help for persons who I came into contact with genuine reasons/cases he is researching and assisting where he can. One has to be also mindful of those who fabricate alleged forced removals and so on to play on the sympathies of concerned persons like myself, I too have been bitten by that deceptive practice but I certainly over time have developed ways of checking, rechecking and verifying such reports.
Owing to the fact that NGOs were also set up to deal with the welfare issues as well in the population not just the legalise of repealing buggery, in a previous podcast where I explored the leadership concerns post the eviction notice given to the aforementioned agencies I highlighted the unofficial residential crisis intervention as done by co-founder of JFLAG the late Brian Williamson way back in the nineties who used his own business complex as a temporary shelter for some persons where he could even as he ran a gay club and rented office space and overseeing all of that. Continuity is a missing element in terms of building on what has worked for future fallouts. Even I was the beneficiary of such temporary community based shelter assistance from a departed friend of mine who opened his apartment to me for just over a year after my own brush with the police and the law in November 1996. My own family became aloof towards the public revelation of my sexuality, buggery allegations and relations were tense for some time before it settled but not without arguments, fights and non speaking moments, so I clearly understand the place where some of the young displaced persons are at. It was not an easy road to recovery and bearing in mind agencies such as JFLAG did not exist at that time nor LGBT related counselling so I had to do so in a slow painstaking process of self re-discovery and sheer determination bearing in mind I still reside at my old address where this all came out and have not left Jamaica.
I have offered my spare bedroom here at my house before since the passing of my father in February 2012 as many other ordinary LGBT folk also do at times but some of whom can no longer do so for directly homeless persons due to escalating costs and an ever shrinking income, maybe for someone who is still employed or have some limited income to contribute to the expenses, donations generally are not as fast and as frequent as before and as more persons become insular as well you find that networking to intervene in cases such as this is less available. With the new figures as well on unemployment by the Statistical Institute of Jamaica, STATIN one in every three persons between the ages of fourteen and thirty five (post graduate level included) is unemployed as at January 2012 or about 37% and is said to rise, included in that are younger LGBT people who are either studying full/part time at some tertiary institution and or working or on student loans. The residual effect can be seen on Facebook especially on certain job search and career groups/pages but in LGBT groups or pages it is clear as more and more persons reach out openly for assistance with job seeking or employment wanted status messages as a starter. A recent open cry for help one of many others before in a Facebook group where JFLAG operatives are members went unanswered openly as the individual repeated the call and by the looks of it he was not privately messaged either when I engaged him. I have had several private messages as well and feel so helpless in responding as how there should be given the age of the struggle versus the resources and funding allocated over the years.
Unconfirmed reports also suggest the population mentioned in the introduction that for the most part were staying in New Kingston and at the rear of the former JFLAG/JASL offices have had some challenges of verbal and physical abuse by persons, that option of illegal occupying the premises does not exist anymore as guards are posted there now and the new owners take over. The supermarket staff for example where it was reported that some of the gay men had barged in and tried to rob have vowed some retaliation, while other allegations laid at the feet of the men turned out to be concocted by other non MSM miscreants in the business district as well who use the glare of the men’s bad reputation to carry out criminal activity, it is hard to report hearsay but given our culture of the grapevine if it does not go as reported it is exactly that. Other persons in the meantime have been struggling with job loss hence reduced incomes and as personal finances dwindle so does the lifestyles of those persons. Persons have been evicted by landlords or fear such action for owed rent etc with no immediate outlet for recovery. The fallout as well from the state’s crackdown on the illegal lotto scamming which some MSM are alleged to be involved seem evident as once “rich” persons have joined the street cohort of displaced and homeless. Same gender loving women also have been seeing some challenges as well according to an ally in that section of the population, stereotypical profiling in reverse if you will where a butch identified woman was said to have been relieved of her job as she was alleged to be too aggressive to her former female boss.
Other cases that myself and others have been tracking number four as other persons try to intervene and one was reported to JFLAG, the outcome of that one is still unclear but the young men involved have been getting by for now, how long they will remain displaced and not move over into full homelessness is another matter. There are some older cases from last year that are also ongoing but at the displaced category, others have been meandering between being displaced and homeless as no proper life skills knowledge is at hand the minimal feeding program that one NGO claims to regularly provide does not address the psycho social issues nearly enough, the young man for example who stayed at my home for some days is still moving around and has a temporary job for now but instability can be a challenge by not having a roof over ones head. Talk therapy, temporary shelter and food by themselves address the immediate needs but the psychological, emotional and long term needs are another matter especially when the assistance is not buffered with expertise to help the individual return to some level of independence. The St Catherine populations have seen some temporary help come their way but only for five persons by an interfaith group out of the estimated twenty plus, that religious group is also struggling with some theological, ideological and indeed anthropological issues as they engage the men but refuse to directly engage the more effeminate members of the population, some find shelter at a popular revivalist’s centre but cannot stay for extended periods and their movement is heavily restricted to avoid nosy eyes as per the host’s instructions, the landscaping activity that the lucky “masculine” five have been doing with loaned weed whackers is losing traction as the dry season reduces vegetation growth hence no lawns to cut for income.
Western Jamaica namely Montego Bay and its environs have seen the aforementioned fallout from the lotto scamming crackdown as well, according to reports from influentials on that side of the island things are not looking so rosy for some persons and a police raid nabbed three persons just this week. Other challenges include the access to medication namely ARVs/HAART for HIV+ members of the group.
Solutions at the community level seems to be an open option still after all these years when more strategic programs to address this business of displacements that pre-dates any struggle for LGBT rights and recognition in the first place are obviously missing and should have been in place given the amount of programs written over decades, anecdotal information is available just by the oral histories from older gay men who from memory hint to forced evictions though not as frequent and as caustic as today yet very little improvement has come in that department. When will we see some proper responses to this perennial problem when it has always been one of the most visible evidence of hate for MSM in this country?
Please help if you can.
Peace and tolerance