Minister Cox – The time for talking is Over. Let’s focus on tangible results for our nation’s street dwellers

18th January, 2021, Port-of-Spain -- As a follow up to a previous meeting of high level stakeholders, held two weeks ago, Senator the Honourable Donna Cox, Minister of Social Development and Family Services, today (Monday January 18, 2021), engaged representatives of the business community. The meeting took place at the Linda Baboolal Meeting Room at Cabildo Chambers on St. Vincent Street, Port-of-Spain from 11:00 a.m. and was chaired by the Minister, who was also accompanied by her Executive team at the Ministry. The latter comprised Permanent Secretaries Jacinta Bailey-Sobers and Sheila Seecharan, Deputy Permanent Secretary, Vijay Gangapersad and Chief Technical Officer, Michael Reid; as well as technical officers from the Ministry’s Legal and Social Displacement Units.

The meeting was also attended by Professor Clement Imbert of the University of Trinidad and Tobago, Mark Edghill, President of the Association of Real Estate Agents, Gregory Aboud, President of the Downtown Merchants’ Association (DOMA), and also representing the T&T Chamber of Commerce; Adele Rose of Massy Foundation, Stephanie Fingal of the ECA, Dianne Joseph, Manager of the Co-operative Credit Union League of Trinidad and Tobago,  Dexter Charles representing the Bankers Association of Trinidad and Tobago (BATT), Anthony Salloum, representative from DOMA, as well as representatives from this country’s various Chambers of Commerce, Unit Trust Corporation and ATTIC, and the wider private sector.

During her opening remarks, Minister Cox acknowledged that she was quite pleased by the turnout, and commended the private sector’s willingness to work towards the identification of available resources and solutions that would enable the Ministry to respond to the myriad of issues that are associated with street dwelling. She noted that the session was about moving beyond identifying and bemoaning what we know already exists. She lamented that although several years had passed since the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services had first put forward its initial response to the issue of street dwelling, the focus now was to operationalize the national strategy for a Continuum of Care, with collaboration by all sectors of our society.

According to contributions made by meeting attendees, there was consensus that the action plan formed a good basis for continued collaboration. The Minister apprised the meeting of the Plan’s status, as it relates to what has already been achieved, what was required, and where each stakeholder had a particular role to play.  Some of the areas that will require urgent attention include:

    •  Refurbishment/outfitting of facilities;
    •  PPEs-Outfitting of personnel;
    •  Training/Mentorship opportunities;
    •  Employment/Business opportunities;
    •  Appropriate and well-equipped vehicles;
    •  Service Providers (Programmes, Security, Food and other supplies);

Furthermore, it was agreed that given scarce resources, there is need for a targeted, solution-oriented approach to the issue by all stakeholders.  Appropriate legislation is also critical, coupled with the right measure of training and development, mentorship and financial counselling as part of the rehabilitation process. Those present also agreed that there is need for more community involvement toward the rehabilitation and re-integration of street dwellers from dwelling in public spaces.

Minister Cox also reminded attendees that subsequent items on the Ministry’s agenda include a meeting with non-governmental organisations, faith-based groups, Mayors and representatives of the Regional Corporations to move forward. Plans are underway to a conduct technical meeting with this particular segment in the coming weeks.

The Minister disclosed that prior to Monday’s session, the Ministry had already held fruitful discussions with the Ministry of Rural Development and Local Government, which had since pledged the support of the Municipal Police; and with the Commissioner of Police, who also confirmed the support of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service. She assured that all efforts will be made to expedite and implement the plan, despite the various challenges which may be encountered along the way.

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