April 9, 2009
Social Development Minister Amery Browne doth protest too much, as Shakespeare once said of a character overdoing the effort to make observers disbelieve the obvious. A Social Development Ministry campaign to clear Port-of-Spain streets of vagrants has begun, just as the city is about to welcome prestigious visitors. Short days before the start of the Fifth Summit of the Americas, a vagrant-removal drive is urgently underway from this week. It just happened that way, Dr Browne insists. “It’s not being done for April 2009.”
[efoods]Still, it’s heartening that the 33 visiting hemispheric heads, their entourages, and media from all over the Americas are likely to see this capital’s streets without the usual overburden of human detritus. The Social Development Ministry has estimated that vagrants, now officially designated “socially displaced people,” constitute a population of 262 in Port-of-Spain. Most, but not all vagrants live on the streets of the capital. The relocation begun here is part of a “national strategic programme that will take days and weeks,” the minister said.
A budget of $90 million has been allocated to prepare accommodation in the Piparo Care and Rehabilitation Centre, at the Centre for the Socially Displaced on Duncan Street and, presumably also, in prefabricated quarters on the grounds of St Ann’s Hospital. Dr Browne’s programme must therefore be assessed not only by success in keeping up city-centre appearances over the next two weeks. A decisive measure will be the extent to which the clean-up drive sustainably advances the elimination of degrading and unsightly street dwelling all over the country.