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Society of St Vincent de Paul responds to centre’s closure

Following is the recent press release from the Society of St Vincent de Paul on the closure of the Centre for Socially Displaced Persons:

The Society of St Vincent de Paul (the Society) expresses its disappointment at the decision taken by the Government to close down the Centre for Socially Displaced Persons (CSDP) operated by the Society at Riverside Plaza. The Society is also concerned about certain inferences made in the article published in the Trinidad Guardian on August 21, 2022, concerning this closure.
In addition to the CSDP, the Society operates 11 Homes in Trinidad and Tobago, in line with its mission of providing care and assistance to the “Poorest of the Poor.” The Society executes additional work in line with this mission in 64 communities throughout Trinidad and Tobago, via our volunteer network of members. This work has been ongoing in the country since 1857 non-stop!
Funding for work of the Society is provided principally by the private sector, residents’ contributions, members of the public and fundraising activities organised by the Society. Monies are also received from the Government specifically for State-supported projects such as the CSDP.
As with many NGOs over the last two years, the Society has experienced reduced fundraising activities and donations and significantly increased expenses primarily due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Over that time, we have also been facing a new challenge with high turnover of staff particularly in critical areas of our operations.
The Society entered into a contractual arrangement with the Government of Trinidad and Tobago in 1991, through the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services, for the operation of a temporary centre for socially displaced persons at the Riverside Carpark in Port of Spain, until their reintegration into society. The CSDP has a maximum capacity of 200 persons and is staffed by a Home Manager and 13 staff members.
Under the contractual arrangement, the Society was required to provide Ministry reports regarding the operation of the Centre. These reports have been consistently provided over the years up to and including December 31, 2021.
2022 reports have been delayed on account of staff turnover as well as non-contractual increased reporting requirements mandated by the Ministry. We acknowledge and support the Ministry’s concern to ensure funds provided by it are properly and appropriately accounted but this has put additional strain on the resources of the Society which were not contemplated when the original contract was struck. We nevertheless continue our efforts to provide the requested information.
The audited accounts of the Society were consistently provided as required by the Ministry with the 2018 audited accounts being submitted in 2019. Provision of the 2019, 2020 and 2021 audited accounts have been impacted by the challenges mentioned. This is being actively addressed to have these available during the fourth quarter of 2022.
The Society continues to work on overcoming present challenges to ensure transparency and accountability to all its stakeholders and put to rest any concerns that may have arisen on account of statements in the referenced article.
We also remain committed to our mission of providing assistance to the Poorest of the Poor and look forward to continuing this work with the help and support of kind benefactors who provide donations and patronise our fundraising ventures.