Night Shelter to become Shelter for the Homeless By Shawnel Cudjoe
Guyana Chronicle
January 5, 2007

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THE recent decision by the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security to extend services at the Night Shelter, to 24 hours a day, has shared successes and challenges, Administrator, Mr. Harry Dat Tilku said yesterday.

In an interview with the Guyana Chronicle, he explained the situation at the Lot 1A Arapaima Street, East La Penitence, Georgetown hostel and plans for 2007.

Tilku, who has been administering the institution since October 11, 2001, ten months after it was opened, said the round-the-clock opening “is a good opportunity for persons to avoid staying on the streets.”

But, with inmates being there for longer periods, there is constant bickering and employees have to be on the alert.

Tilku said, if disputes escalate, reports are made to the nearby East La Penitence Police Station and the relevant action is taken, as happened last month when two cases of causing bodily harm ended up in court.

He explained that, if inmates misbehave regularly, use offensive language to staff members and other persons there, their families are summoned to remove them.

Tilku said, as a result of the new system, there is currently a staff shortage and the place also needs another orderly, a kitchen attendant and a receptionist to complement the present 17 staffers.

He said the shelter carries out regular security checks because persons sometimes try to enter with offensive weapons. More than 100 knives were seized in December and 10 for this month already.

Tilku said the busiest time is evenings when about 100 people, most of them males, are there.

He reported that more counselling sessions are held, by personnel from the ministry’s Social Services and Welfare Department and various church groups, on drug abuse, coping with homelessness, returning to their families and seeking jobs.

Tilku said the shelter tries to provide employment and some persons are usually employed as security guards, domestics and labourers while others assist with different chores and work around the compound.

He announced that, for this year, they are working towards a system through which, especially with Cricket World Cup drawing nearer, more recreational facilities, counselling and additional accommodation, including benabs and outdoor furniture, as well as a proper laundry area, can be made available.

The name will be changed from Night Shelter to Shelter for the Homeless and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security, Mr. Trevor Thomas said, Tuesday, they decided on the extension of services to get more people off the streets.

He said such persons are often found wandering in places like Bourda Market, outside Guyana Post Office Corporation (GPOC) on Robb Street and several corners around the capital city.

Because most of them are involved in begging, they are subjected to verbal abuse, Thomas said, pointing out that shelter is not an institution like The Palms and should not, therefore, be classified as for the “old and helpless.”

He said the shelter has, as its major aim, re-integrating occupants into society and reuniting them with their families.

Thomas said the counselling is done to empower people with a sense of self-worth and restore their dignity.

Consequently, those who walk through the gates of the shelter are given much more than a hot meal and a warm bed, he stated.