Lest we forget it was the current mayor who claimed she was concerned about homeless gays even as she ordered a clearance exercise of them and played the victimhood card of death threats, the question is if the mayor like her predecessors have not been able to address citywide homelessness such as the then popular Ralph Brown, Marie Atkins (shelter named after her) to the revolutionary appearing Desmond McKenzie turned local government minister then how the said mayor and her office going to address a marginalized group’s issues that require specialist interventions, when said interventions that are to be led by one of the NGO republics are not forthcoming?
The Shoemaker Gully is a relief as many other such types of infrastructure facilitates rain/storm water runoff as opposed to a sewer which is usually underground away from public view, it has always been an attractive spot from as far as the early nineties during the HIV years when the epidemic was rife locally, many persons especially gay men who had ‘signs’ opportunistic infections or skin legions and or lypoastrophy found themselves forcibly evicted or worse and so the Kingston region along Half Way Tree Road, the former open lot turned Emancipation Park, Argyle Road’s open lot turned townhouses, Breamar Ave, the old restaurant in front the NCB Atrium turned Scotiabank to name a few and other lots also turned townhouses and apartments has slowly made the once hidden populations more exposed. Gullies on a whole have become hiding ground for many an underground activities including crime and sex.
What seemed a hidden or non-existent issue of homeless gays suddenly looked new to many including the local government authorities, even as NGOs and their bureaucracy where well aware of it all and virtually did nothing in essence. December 2014 the Gully was cleared by the New Kingston police much to the relief of many but as it turns out as time before there is a cooling period and then they return and this time with a vengeance as some who were serving jail sentences served them and were out again. The so called feeding programs carried out by some which amounts to mere tokenism only addresses the immediate service needs while no serious mid to long term answers are forthcoming. Funding had come at a couple junctures only to have said funding returned under the guise of an inability to find a space to rent (not to own!).
This on and off again or cat and mouse game also went on at the other section of the said Gully by the Nattall hospital along Half Way Tree road where a burst water pipe was the attractive pull for persons to cook, shower and so on; even as NGOs had offices nearby to Osbourne Road offering HIV services, the similar bad eggs problem existed then in the nineties but was not so pronounced as it has become these days.
Kindness was a more readily extended virtue and the bureaucratic system driven poison were not so evident yet, the old AIDS hospices across the island had something to do with the attractiveness of the Gully as just a couple thousand feet away from the Gully going northwards on Lord Nelson way the Kingston chapter of the 3 hospices was located. The older populations of homeless persons would use the cover of darkness to go to the hospice and convince the staff for use of water, ask for condoms and even take ‘clients’ for quick sex unbeknownst for the most part to the establishment. Even then the garbage issue was a challenge especially at the very property occupied by the political feeding tree of the Solid Waste Management office on Half Way Tree road across from the Jamaica Information Service, JIS. Clearance has been attempted by the authorities over the years including Labour Day projects in such veins but it just simply returns after a time.
Having been involved in HIV prevention work on the streets I am well aware of the kind of infrastructure in the city and tracking some of this is all too easy to fit together, the only changes are the people, some have died, some have relocated, some are in jail or prison and a few relative to the bigger picture have gotten and used or made opportunities. When it was suggested for example in the hayday of hospices becoming too expensive to run to convert one of the three to a drop in centre it was met with resistance indeed hostility by some in the NGO establishment but hindsight is 20/20 vision and we could not have foreseen then what was to unfold in future years; in fact some persons supported the refusal under the guise of the disgust with a few bad eggs in the groups. This issue was not limited to Kingston only but also Montego Bay, a recent garbage issue also had in the sight of blame commercial sex workers male and female caught up in a police drag net some months ago, coupled with an environmental study on plastics revealing much by way of bottles and Styrofoam. The more larger water runoff structures such as Sandy or McGregor Gullies by virtue of their size hardly have the challenges as a Shoemaker Gully does as it is small; Shoemaker was in essence a natural drain back in the nineties when New Kingston’s business district was being slowly expanded, the widening of Trafalgar Road to a dual carriageway led to the concreting of the waterway to look the way it does today with block work and so on.
The blockage of the end of the Shoemaker as it exists into the sea is of concern as there is no history of such a blockage before at that magnitude.
It has been sad to watch over the years how MSM/transgender mostly homelessness just fester right before our eyes; with all the empirical and anecdotal evidence to boot but only ultra limited interventions and use if not rape of the populations for statistical data usage is more important. It seems some NGO republics have forgotten the humanitarian component of their creation and instead are system driven than anything else it is as if the greater goals are targets to be met, social media sleek image appearances, professional profiling, multi-layered bureaucracies propping up with so many numerous groups, sub groups, coalitions, eloquent speakers and writers yet all of them combined cannot make a whole and they watch in their privilege the least amongst us just implode, so as to make more material for said bureaucracies to survive. A similar hypocrisy also exists in institutional religiosity where the claim is made that we have most churches per square mile suggesting theocracy and less societal atrocities and sin but said atrocities abound none the less, makes one wonder what is the purpose of the preponderance of systems and so on and yet no or very little change.
Think on these things.
Peace & tolerance
also see: Updates plus
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