Stories by Lara Pickford-Gordon, email@example.com
Living Water Community (LWC) runs Ave Maria House, 28 Duncan Street, Port of Spain (627-6753). Breakfast is served Monday through Friday usually from 8 a.m. and lunch from 11 a.m. The homeless can also get a shower and change of clothes.
Centre Coordinator Alwyn Hunte, said a welcoming environment is created for persons visiting. There are more than 60 men and approximately ten to 12 women dropping in daily.
They are encouraged to “socialise respectfully”; obscene language, alcohol use and smoking are not permitted on the compound. Hunte said, “Individuals who come to our doors are respected first, by how we welcome them….The rule is that you come here wash your hands. If you want to, go in the back and have a bath…[then] you have your breakfast.” He added, “the rule of the day: respect for one and all”.
Daily morning prayer offers a “message” for reflection and sometimes visitors say the prayer. Wednesday’s prayer meetings after breakfast have been an impetus for some individuals to seek rehabilitation. They are referred to LWC’s New Life Ministries Drug Rehabilitation Centre, Mt St Benedict.
Hunte has assisted persons in need of mental health treatment to get into St Ann’s Hospital. There was a man named who regularly slept outside Express House covered in his own faeces. Hunte encountered him last year during a Good Friday walk as breakfast was being distributed.
He took him back to Ave Maria House, got him cleaned and transported to St Ann’s Hospital. Hunte took responsibility and intermittently checked on him. “He has bounced back really nice,” he said.
There are nine former street dwellers receiving treatment for mental illness. Hunte said the public often think men on the street were ‘pipers’ but there were different causes.
“Some of them it’s old age and they get put out, their house burn down or something… a number of them may come out here and start using drugs…the list goes on.”
Street dwellers in Port of Spain come from all over the country. Hunte said among them there were “intelligent individuals” who can make a contribution. He knew a “good mason” willing to work but cannot afford high rent. This man would like to have his own small space. He noted that since November the number of persons accessing the service had increased with younger persons in their early 20s now seen.
Hunte said, “Their issues have a lot to do with their behaviour at home, not adhering to rules and ending up out there on the streets; a lot of them on the Promenade, having conversations with some of them, they say they looking for a place to rent and so forth.” Hunte tries to help with getting jobs and commended businesses in the community which gave them employment.