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October 13, 2020

Budget 2020-2021: new stairs for St Vincent de Paul centre

By Lara Pickford-Gordon


The sum of $1 million was assigned under the Social Sector Investment Programme 2021 for the construction of a staircase at the Centre for Socially Displaced Persons (CSDP), Riverside Car Park, Port of Spain. This is to ensure that the facility is compliant with Occupational Safety and Health Authority and Agency (OSHA) standards.

The T&T Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) has an agreement with the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services (MSDFS) to manage the Centre.  It is located in a building more than 40 years old owned by the National Insurance Property Development Company Ltd (NIPDEC).

SVP National President Angelique Taylor said, “It was observed that bits of the staircase began falling off, to which we engaged discussion with the Project Unit of the MSDFS for a solution”.  Basic maintenance is the responsibility of the Ministry. “At a recent structural assessment of the said staircase, by the Ministry of Works and Transport, it was recommended that it be dismantled and a new one reconstructed in fiscal 2021, for the safety of both residents and staff who work at the Centre,” she said.

Taylor explained the project will be spearheaded by the Ministry’s Project Unit. After permission from NIPDEC, it engaged the construction services of the Trinidad and Tobago Regiment to create an alternative staircase access point. It is located on the east of the building.

“This temporary entry and exit point will be used as an emergency exit upon completion of the main stairwell. We maintain a close partnership with the Ministry to ensure OSHA compliance,” Taylor said.

The SVP in 2019-2020 received an allocation of $2,896,800 for the CSDP. Taylor said, “The Society continues to receive contracted service payment of $724,200 a quarter to care for a maximum of 200 previously homeless persons who now reside at the Centre”.

The subvention, she continued, is not always received on a timely basis so the SVP “is pressured to tap into its limited financial resources to pay staff salaries on time”. Salaries are sometimes paid late.

This year, the SVP entered into another service agreement with the MSDFS to operate a temporary shelter at the ground level of the CSDP to accommodate homeless during the pandemic.
A subvention of $194,000/month was given for security, caregivers, meals etc. The “COVID-19 shelter” has space for a maximum of 60 persons. The project initially for six months was extended to December “in the first instance”.

Taylor disclosed the six elderly homes operated by the SVP in Arima, San Fernando, Mason Hall (Tobago), Diego Martin, Santa Cruz, and Belmont need repairs and upgrade. This is engaging the attention of the National Executive and SVP membership.

The SVP is seeking new revenue streams and looking overseas for “financial options”.

Taylor said, “We know it is quite a competitive feat on the international charity market. But we have to seek and find, knock and the door shall be open…and His love would be revealed”.

She announced the SVP planned to acquire computers for residents to take advantage of the many online classes and training available. “We see opportunity to explore and possibly take advantage of the Mi-Fi facility announced in the Budget 2021 presentation”.

In the budget presentation on October 5, Finance Minister Colm Imbert said government will be providing 45,000 Mi-Fi to students who do not have internet access in their homes or surrounding areas.
He said, “Mi-Fi is a mobile device which uses the 3G/4G mobile phone networks to create a mini wireless hotspot that can be shared among mobile internet-abled devices such as smartphones, laptops and tablets which are in range of the signal.”
The measure is projected to take effect in the first quarter of 2021.