A DRIVE by the National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA) to help scores of homeless persons in Kingston and St Andrew get their official government documents to boost their chances of getting a job is being hampered by their inability to acquire national identification cards.
People who have no fixed address are automatically disqualified from being registered with the Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ).
Read more: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/NCDA-reaches-out-to-the-city-s-homeless_8616679#ixzz1WORS1XPT
Apart from the identification cards, the NCDA is also helping the street people to acquire birth certificates, National Insurance Scheme (NIS) cards and Tax Registration Numbers (TRN).
Collete Browne of the NCDA's Tek It to Dem Programme, which organised the first ever health and wellness fair for more than 140 homeless persons last week, said one of the biggest challenges for some of these persons to obtain jobs was their inability to qualify for identification cards. "One big thing that they need to get a job is an identification card but they are unable to since there is no longer any national IDs," she told the Observer.
Browne told the Observer that they were hoping to have the EOJ onboard but it was not possible since persons need to have a fixed address in order to be registered on the voters' list and receive a voter's ID.
According to Browne, one objective of the fair — which was held at the Marie Atkins Night Shelter in downtown Kingston, was to create a holistic approach to helping these persons to receive employment in order to have them reintegrated into society.
As such, in addition to accessing medical and dental services as well as a hot meal, agencies like the Registrar General Department (RGD), and the NIS provided an opportunity for these persons to begin the application process. Additionally, the homeless persons benefited from presentations from the HEART Trust/NTA and the Jamaica Foundation For Lifelong Learning.
Some of these homeless persons, according to Browne, would receive employment if they had the requisite documents.
According to Browne, many of the street persons were not mentally ill but have became homeless because of various circumstances. It was under some of these circumstances that documents such as their birth certificates and IDs were misplaced leaving them without any form of identification.
The majority of the persons who applied for birth certificates at the RGD's booth at the fair were only able to provide very basic information from which a search will have to be made for their records.
Males, whose ages ranged from 25 to 60 years, made up the majority of the homeless persons who benefited from the fair.
Acting inspector of the Poor for Kingston and St Andrew, Elaine Walker said it was a historic day for the city's street people.
"The homeless are like invisible persons and to have them coming here and being able to apply for these things and to see the doctor and dentist is historic," she beamed.
Walker also expressed delight that the Marie Atkins Night Shelter was able to facilitate the event and said she looked forward to seeing these homeless persons receive the requisite documentation.
Oneil Smith, regional manager at the NCDA, said there were persons who had expressed a willingness to employ some of the homeless.
"We have had persons say they will give them jobs and so we want to help in whatever way we can," he said.
Daniel Brown, field officer at the NCDA said the Tek It To Dem programme has been very effective in reaching out to the street people.
The Tek It to Dem programme, implemented jointly by the Ministry of Health and the NCDA, targets mainly the homeless, HIV infected persons and substance abusers in the Corporate Area.
The project offers services such as counselling, testing and care in addition to food, clothing and transportation to medical facilities and shelters.
Between August 2009 and July 2010, the programme is said to have mapped over 50 locations and tested 333 homeless persons for HIV and 82 for substance use. Of that number, a total of 40 persons were tested positive for HIV.
Brown said that the aim is to take the various services to the homeless, providing them with nutritious meals as well as medical services.
"A lot of homeless persons won't go to main health care facilities because they were being looked down on and so they were dying in the streets," he said.
He explained that money from the Global Fund was used to purchase a bus, which is used to transport them to clinics across the Corporate Area.
also see the JIS Report as well