Five months ago, I wrote to this blog and on GLBTQ Jamaica contributing a piece on the real state of the homeless issue and Jamaica AIDS Support for Life (JASL) and J-FLAG as I saw it. Though I have never been approached by anyone regarding the article, I’m fully aware how widely read and circulated it was. I’m not naïve nor a stranger to the circles touched upon so word, as is habit, got back to me as to who felt offended or thanked me for having the courage to speak out.
That article dealt mostly with a very lop-sided view of advocacy by a former Executive Director of JASL, essentially painting herself as a lone voice in a wilderness of an uncaring advocacy structure. While I still hold to the view that this is vanity on her part, I went on to state—and still believe—that her dedication to helping LGBT and the neediest cannot be questioned. I like to think of myself as a fair individual so it takes little from me to state that much. Now, as the time has passed, one can assess what has followed since she left.
Mark you, I have stopped volunteering at JASL for years now but as a neighbor I can say things have not really improved since her resignation. Let me clarify: the human interaction is no longer there and the staff keeps mostly to itself, almost in perpetual defense mode. One can hardly blame them at times though given the ridiculous state in which they work.
J-FLAG has remained by and large unchanged, which is of greater concern. Five months ago, my main concern was the constant ignored state of the homeless guys’ behavior by advocates and it remains that way. J-FLAG has dug into its heels that the state of gay-rights remains squarely a “us vs. them’ showdown…effectively saying to all, “we’ll back these guys no matter what” instead of examining what is helping to isolate the community. If the former ED foolishly felt “scum” behavior could be just substitute for advocacy, then J-FLAG which scorned her for such a stance, has done nothing but adopt that same principle. It’s advocates put down any divisive argument, anything that paints a realistically unruly sector of the community, in swift tweets, letters et al. It’s as if there is a desperate need to quiet anyone who doesn’t share the hardline “us vs them” view. You’re marked as ‘homophobic’ or ‘fight ‘gainst’…
A stance for which they are now paying a huge price: the landlady of the premises, fed up with the constant complaints, has sold the property. The eviction notes state that by March month-end, the property will cease being hers. What does this mean? J-FLAG and JASL now find themselves with just a little under three (3) weeks to find alternative lodgings.
I was told about the impending state from last year December and felt torn by it. I too am being dislodged and not for any of my own doing. In fact, I can well imagine irresponsible tongues even waging that I had some influence in the matter. It is sad because New Kingston was a great convenience to me but not anymore, both for work and personal reasons. I was moving anyway but I had grown fond of the area. But, in principle I’m glad the landlady finally took action that anyone else would have taken years ago. Things have been said to me in confidence and I shall not repeat but just as how both organizations have not been good neighbours for a long time, they’ve been bad tenants too.
Now, it will force them both to change idealism and how they treat others around them. Unless they find accommodations by themselves, they can no longer have their visitors dominating everything. They will be forced to be more cautious, more considerate of other people’s rights. J-FLAG especially seems to have lost this common decency factor.
J-FLAG is not a practical organization either. Imagine my shock being told by their representatives that the organization cannot afford security. A gay-rights organization is a group I’d imagine needs security more than any other –not just from outside harm but from the very community it defends so stoutly. Lord knows, I don’t need to fabricate occasions of violence that certain pockets of the homeless guys have subjected upon J-FLAG staff. The head of the organization I hope will rectify this inane state when they move to another place because they’ll never have a great spot like this one and no matter where they go, the homeless guys will follow. He is not firm in his leadership either and this façade of unity within the organization over his rule is just that, a façade. The next three weeks will be crucial to their survival, so I hope they are prepared.
As things stand here now, both groups have allowed the homeless guys to live on the property since last Saturday. This entails them occupying virtually the entire outside grounds. So, as I type, even my clothes line is filled with their clothes, my other neighbours’ water tap used regularly, endless visitors streaming in, countless and vulgar and loud arguments 24/7. I have been watching and waiting for some explanation from either group as to the reason for this but they remain silent. Even now, as we all wind down living here, the gross disrespect JASL and J-FLAG mete out to us remains astonishing. These are groups after all that fight against discrimination for their clients respectively yet can turn around comfortably see beneath their noses me and my neighbor and feel satisfied. They do not put a check on the guys here after all, in fact, one person even had the audacity to ask me not to tell the guys they’re moving! Imagine, the cowardice. Yet again, these rowdy street boys are being used and duped without even realizing why.
Naturally, I have taken it upon myself to let the guys know that everyone will be leaving the compound. I don’t work for them so I’m under no clause to keep my mouth shut, worse when I’m being directly affected. They have a right to know and not to have J-FLAG sneak out leave them like that. I have not approached J-FLAG either because my own moving process is nearly here, far away from this current mess, never to interact with these individuals again in person. I’m past even looking at these issues now but a huge part of me is very much satisfied that they’re being uprooted for a matter that—with better management than what is in place now—could have been avoided. It’s time someone made their sloppy ways count in a way that hurts. Good luck o their hunt for accommodations…which I’m sure they’ll find before they find accommodations for these homeless guys. A type of hypocrisy I bet the advocates won’t write letters to the newspapers about.