Saturday, 8 December 2012

Faces of the Homeless

Four sleeps before I leave Jamaica and return to Canada. Technically I have finished at work, though going to an early morning meeting on Tuesday :-)  However, I very much wanted to finish my work here with the 7th annual Day of Care. I participated in this last year - check out blog in December 2011 - but this time was much more involved.  I did a report after the 6th annual and I think we made some progress on the organization end this year.  These events can always be better and I trust that the Council of Voluntary Social Services and the National Volunteer Centre will make the 8th even better.  

This day is always held on the Saturday that culminates the International Day of the Volunteer, December 5th.  It is held in Saint William Grant Park in middle of "Parade" in downtown Kingston - not a place we white girls would go alone in the daytime and never, even in groups, at night. However, this is where the homeless live. So we were there today.

Being homeless in any country is not good and fraught with multiple problems.  We think that being homeless in Canada is bad - and it is - but at least we have services to provide. And, of course, homeless in other countries will be worse. I can only speak from where I work. here in Jamaica. While there is assistance for the homeless in Jamaica, it is minimal and mostly provided by wonderful volunteers and many ecumenical groups. 

The Day of Care provides a one day shopping stop, all donated: clothes, snacks, lunches, hygiene bags (toilet paper, toothpaste, toothbrush, soap, wash cloths, sanitary supplies for women), eye exams, medical exams, diabetes testing, foot care for the diabetic, blood pressure testing, HIV testing and information, and even hair cuts and shaving!  And lots of care, understanding, and - yes - loving. 

It is a lot of organization and we had 75 volunteers running off their feet to support about 650 homeless who came through the park today.  I cannot individually thank all the volunteers here - you are too many!  Though please know that I saw each one and what you offered and I will ever hold those memories close. 

Faces to remember . . . 

Volunteer briefing as the day commences.

Homeless registration was busy from 9 am to 1 pm. We had wonderful volunteers, including three of my Cuso colleages (Brianna, Erin, and Kate) and even Kelly who was here on a week's holiday - she is here for a holiday, is a social worker in Calgary, and spends a day with the homeless in Jamaica.  How wonderful is that?!  What all the volunteers said was how polite everyone was and that almost all the homeless said thank-you for the meagre provisions we could provide. Gulp.

Waiting in line for registration, where they receive vouchers for food, clothing, and hygiene bags. I love this man clutching his "red Christmas ball".  The Christmas tree in the park was lit two nights ago and, methinks, that is now one red ball short. He was not selling it or flaunting it: only holding it closely.  I spoke to him later, still cradling the red ball, and he said all he wanted to do was to keep it for Christmas. I think that the ball is in good hands. 

Says it all.

The clothing distribution was a busy place and the volunteers were amazing!

Just because you are homeless, does not mean you cannot dance for the camera :-)

The Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) were there to help and support. Thank you, JCF!

This chap had his clothes and lunch and wanted to show me the "new" shoes he received.  They are my hiking boots!  They have seen me through many hashes (hikes) in Jamaica and  I thought they might be a better contribution to the Day of Care than an addition to my luggage. He was so delighted with them.  What a serendipitous moment.

This rasta was trying to explain to me that he could see distances, but could not see to read anymore.  We soon got him over the eye clinic. 

I don't know his story.  It is in his face.

The Diabetes Association provided testing.

"Children First" provided HIV information, testing, and condoms.

Mickel - my boss! - and Scrappy, who provided transportation for supplies and lunches, sponsored by the Diabetes Association of Jamaica.

Diabetes Association also provided foot care, a very critical and necessary support for people who live rough. 

A most caring and hard working volunteer (on left) escorting a homeless lady to the services she needs. And giving her hug along the way.  Sometimes the hugs were more important than anything else. 

So much history in this face . . . it would be interesting to know the story. Sad as it might be.

This frail gentleman collapsed in a chair, in the sun, and we thought he was near death.

Fortunately, we called a doctor over from the medical services and his vital signs were stable.  He was exhausted and starved, so he had some juice and then soup. The young girl on the left, a volunteer from Hand of Hope, stayed with him all afternoon until he was able to move on his own. The great sadness is that there is no shelter nor hospital to care for this man - the JCF could not even call an ambulance as it would not come for such a case.  He is 70 years old. I don't know where he went.

Haircuts and barbering!

A rag on your head, new clothes under your arm, and a pattie in your hand. Not much, but the best we could provide. 

Volunteer happily engaging with homeless in the lunch line.

A man with many serious challenges, a face full of sores now covered with cream from the medical clinic, shows off his bag of clothes and hygiene supplies. 


  1. I remember the man with the grey beard and dreads. We walked together for few minutes one day. He knew who I was as I passed him regularly on my way to meet George at the Pegasus. He wanted to marry me and was one of the last offers I got so he was always memorable. Thanks for posting this photo. It is extra special for me.

  2. Great cause. I had planned to volunteer for this while we were in Jamaica but unfortunately was not in town on the day. So happy to see you did. This posting truly proves what volunteering is all about. Very is such a very special day for the homeless and wouldn't happen without you and all the amazing volunteers.

  3. nice idea of sharing love.....