Candle in the Dark shining light on Manchester’s homeless, mentally challenged
The stigma attached to mental illness and a lack of support from the families of those who battle the issue and homelessness continue to drive the increasing demand for free, adequate intervention programmes geared towards their rehabilitation.
Chairman of the Candle in the Dark Empowerment Centre, which caters to some of the needs of the homeless and the mentally challenged in Mandeville, Wendy Freckleton, says there has been a significant increase in the number of homeless persons who migrate to Mandeville, with approximately 80 per cent of them travelling from other parishes.
“The mission must be to rid our streets of the homeless and ensure that they have a proper place to stay and become productive members of our society. We cannot allow so many persons to be living on our streets,”
Freckleton, who took over the reins from the late founders, Jennifer and Arthur Reid, just as the facility was about to be closed, said they have found creative ways, through the assistance of the private and public sectors, to ensure their beneficiaries are not left out in the cold.
However, she said, the greatest challenge is to secure adequate funding to cover overhead costs and increase their staff complement, which would allow them to admit mentally challenged persons.
Additionally, Freckleton is hoping that transitional facilities for the homeless, much like the Desmond McKenzie Transitional Centre for the Homeless on King Street in downtown Kingston, will be instituted in the health regions across the country.
“There are many people in Manchester living below the poverty line. There are many persons in our parish that are on borderline homelessness. They are living in abandoned buildings, old garages and homes that are beyond repair.”
ABOUT 600 DESTITUTE RESIDENTS
According to Treka Lewis, secretary of the Board of Supervision, an arm of the Ministry of Local Government, there are approximately 600 destitute residents in the parish who rely on the aid of the Poor Relief Department.
“At Candle, we believe the best way to reducing homelessness is preventing it. We are on a mission to help as many people as we can, but we need the continued support,” the chairman added
Freckleton was speaking at an awards ceremony at the facility on Thursday, to honour approximately 30 donors for their contribution to the running of the facility over the years.
“If it’s one that we are able to change the life of, one person that we can make become a shining light to the candle, then we will ensure that. A lot of the persons who are homeless, all they really need is a bit of counselling and social intervention to get to a space where they can feel motivated to become independent members of society. As a society, we need to get to a space where we can understand mental illness and homelessness, especially if we are serious about achieving Jamaica’s Vision 2030 and the United Nations sustainable development goal,” she added.
The facility currently provides breakfast, lunch and supper to 45 persons, seven days per week and has, since January, served over 20,000 meals and catered to over one 140 individuals.
Custos of Manchester Garfield Green, who gave the keynote address, underscored the importance of supporting such a facility.
He said, having felt the warmth of kind hands as a youngster who had to drop out of school, get a job as a janitor and battle hunger because his family had fallen on hard times, he understands the power of making a difference in someone’s life.
“Let us do something in people’s lives. When you do good in people’s lives, you are really helping them to believe in themselves and they will always remember you. They may be ungrateful, but they will never ever forget the good that you do.”