The Ministry of Local Government and Community Development and the National Housing Trust (NHT) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the upgrade and expansion of the island’s infirmaries.
Minister of Local Government and Community Development, Hon. Desmond McKenzie, said the document was signed on January 3 at the Ministry, signalling the Government’s continued push to “increase the social protection programmes for the poor and vulnerable.”
He pointed out that the NHT has provided some $220 million to upgrade and build new facilities at the infirmaries across the country.
The Minister said improvement of the island’s infirmaries will also help to stem the problem of homeless persons seeking refuge at hospitals, despite being discharged.
Mr. McKenzie was speaking at a ceremony on January 4 to officially hand over a self-contained studio unit in Lime Hall, St. Ann, to an elderly man who was living in less than ideal conditions.
The Minister further informed that the NHT, National Health Fund (NHF), and the CHASE Fund will collectively provide $500 million to expand the social programmes at infirmaries islandwide.
In the meantime, Mr. McKenzie said the Government will continue to increase its efforts to tackle the increase in the number of persons living on the country’s streets.
“It has now become a major problem. There are close to 600 persons living on the streets, especially in Downtown Kingston, and I have made a commitment that we are going to tackle this issue,” he added.
In this regard, the Minister said drop-in centres being constructed in Hanover and St. Elizabeth will be officially opened early this year, to offer provisional shelter to homeless persons in those parishes.
He informed that construction is to commence soon on the drop-in centre for the Corporate Area, which has the highest number of persons living on the streets. That centre is expected to be completed by the end of 2019.
The Minister also handed over a studio unit to an elderly indigent man at Mile End in the parish. Both units consist of a bedroom, bathroom and a kitchen area, and were built at a combined cost of approximately $4 million.