Minister says proposal for ‘homeless bill’ submitted for review  

Kelroy Curtis Samuels told Observer his story of homelessness in 2020 (File photo by Shahein Fitzpatrick)
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By Elesha George

[email protected]

“We have crossed some significant milestones,” the Minister for Social Transformation Dean Jonas said yesterday of a proposed bill that promises to curb vagrancy and homelessness.

Nearly a year ago, the minister promised to operationalise the 1995 Public Trustee Act which is expected to help solve problems such as vagrancy, delinquency of children, the elderly and disabled people.

He had previously set a timeline of one month to begin its implementation, but in an update on Friday he set a new timeline.

 He said before the end of the month, the ministry will present “something” to the media, noting that a proposal had already been submitted to him but the ministry is “still in the phase of working it out”.

“We have now set up a department within the ministry to deal with vagrancy and homelessness,” Jonas said in the update.

According to the minister, “the internal structures are being set up” and currently there is proposed legislation which has not yet gone before Cabinet.

“We have appointed now a director to head up that department and we’re now putting the structures in place to get things going in terms of moving along, in terms of taking care of these vulnerable persons amongst us,” he said.

The minister could not however offer any further details on the specific types of changes the legislation is expected to bring, telling Observer that “it is difficult to say”.

He explained, “We have a proposed outline. We looked across the world basically and looked at best practices in other countries, in terms of dealing with this problem, and so we are going to be taking that to Cabinet and of course the legal drafters will have to look at it then and see which is the best way to deal with this matter.”

In May 2021, Jonas told Observer that less than 80 people around the country had been identified as living on the streets.

The ministry is currently gathering data on the latest statistics, including persons who may be on the streets but are not homeless.

The minister was speaking at Friday’s post-Cabinet press briefing.

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