By Theresa Goodwin
Efforts are being made to improve the lives of the estimated 75 vagrants that are living on the streets across Antigua and Barbuda.
In a recent interview, Social Transformation Minister Dean Jonas said that his ministry is in the process of examining some derelict properties at the Old Holberton hospital compound that could be converted into halfway houses for those who are interested in that option.
The minister said some vagrants are also in need of mental health support — another thing the ministry intends to focus on.
“We are actually putting together a proposal right now to look into that to see how we can help our vagrants, most of whom are male,” Jonas said.
Jonas also revealed that the matter is “very complex” in that even though many vagrants are property owners and have family members who are willing to assist them, some prefer to continue living and eating on the streets.
“It is a broad issue that we have to address and we are conducting our studies right now,” Jonas said. “We are looking at resources and other things that we can use to assist them.”
He said in the meantime, the ministry continues to partner with the Adopt-A-Family group and other agencies to provide daily hot meals for many vagrants and less fortunate people in the city of St John’s.
Staff at the Community Development Division, which falls under the Ministry of Social Transformation, are in the process of collecting statistical data on all the vagrants in the country. This information will be fed into a database to guide the ministry in its efforts.
“We are gathering information on their living conditions, their mental state and everything about them. All that will be placed in a database to see how we can help them,” Jonas said.