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Special Sunday court for street dwellers

Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Some of the persons rounded up by the City Corporation on Thursday night sit in a van outside the court. Photo: Karla Ramoo

Street dwellers were again picked up from the streets of Port-of-Spain and brought before the courts at a special sitting yesterday. Port-of-Spain Mayor Louis Lee Sing said 84 men and two women appeared before Chief Magistrate Marcia Ayers–Caesar and senior magistrate Lucina Cardenas-Ragoonanan in the Port-of-Spain Tenth and Four B Courts respectively. The street dwellers were picked up on Thursday night by police officers and Port-of-Spain City Corporation workers on St Vincent and Chacon Streets and Western Main Road in St James. Most of them were charged with loitering and pleaded guilty. They claimed they had homes, families and even jobs.

Others were charged with possession of illegal smoking apparatus used for cocaine. While some were freed, others were granted bail and many pleaded guilty to the charge of illegal possession. Some were also remanded to the St Ann’s Psychiatric Hospital. David Smith, who said he was 46 and worked at a construction site, said he had previously stayed at a guest house and at a house in St James. Speaking very eloquently and with an American accent, Smith said he was walking along the Western Main Road to a pharmacy when vehicles “pulled up on me” and men began questioning him. “No one identified themselves as a police officer,” Smith said. He pleaded guilty to possession of a device used to smoke cocaine. Four vehicles belonging to the Corporation transported the street dwellers to the court where the sitting began at 9 am. Charges were still being read at around 12.30 pm.

Lee Sing, who was present in the Tenth Court, told reporters Government wasn’t treating the issue with urgency. He said many of the street dwellers needed to be rehabilitated. He said: “The reality that confronts all of us in society is that we have got to find a way to treat with the challenges that confront the homeless. “I have sat through this morning’s proceedings and I have listened to many of the street dwellers brought before the court and many of them need real help. “Many of them need mental health, mental help, some need drug addiction help and assistance and some are just homeless people.” He said on Thursday night during the exercise, some did not hesitate to go along with the police.

Lee Sing said one man was heard saying: “Let’s go, let’s go. I just need to sleep with a roof over my head for once.” The mayor appealed for people wishing to assist to come forward since it appeared Government was incapable of moving swiftly. “We have to get them off the streets and into institutions where we can rehabilitate them,” he said. “The process that we are following at this time is one that the law allows us to do. It is my hope that we will come with some more aggressive and humane laws.”


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