The Night Shelter: providing support, and reintegration for the homeless
By: Chevon Farley
The Night Shelter continues to stand as a beacon of hope and compassion, offering relief from the harsh realities of homelessness, since its establishment.
The shelter located at East La Penitence, Georgetown, has provided warmth, nourishment, and support to thousands of persons over the years, and under the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security, the facility can now house some 120 residents, following the recent $5 million facelift.
The major infrastructural push by President Ali-led Administration saw the construction of a new wing, along with the enhancement of the existing building.
A place to belong
The night shelter accommodates 83 individuals; the amount fluctuates as residents come and go. Among the current occupants, 23 are women, while the remaining are men.
Resident, Chanmattie Mangu told the Department of Public Information (DPI) she is thankful for her new home since she had nowhere to go and cannot locate her relatives.
“I was in Suriname working and I fall sick and a bus bring me and put me on the line top and left me. A lady that see, she brought me to the doctor and the doctor brought me here,” Mangu relayed.
She noted that daily she feels a sense of belonging and does not miss her past life.
“I think I am with my family here. I get to eat every day; three times, nice food and I get to bathe and do everything as if I am home with my family.”
Akeem Nanchampen, 28, recently suffered injuries from a vehicle accident and subsequently became a resident at the shelter, since he has no home and needed a place to stay.
“Here is a very nice place, everyone lives with love here, nobody doesn’t behave badly, everything does go nice with everybody. We get three meals a day here… I am with my family here”, he said.
Another resident, Harry Persaud said he was a vibrant cane cutter; however, he became visually impaired about three years.
Persaud explained that due to his medical condition, he was neglected by relatives. He expressed gratitude to the night shelter, after receiving the much-needed medical attention which helped him regain his vision.
“I come here and now I am satisfied with my eyes because I couldn’t have seen for three years. Thank the Lord that I get through cause now I can see. My children didn’t want to look after me. So, I thank the admin for her help.”
Administrator of the Night Shelter, Sheila Veersammy used the opportunity to call on Guyanese to love and care for their vulnerable family members.
The shelter’s care process and services
Veersammy made it clear that while the intake procedures have become less stringent compared to a year ago, certain criteria must be met before persons are accepted into the shelter.
After administering a COVID-19 test, an interview takes place, during which individuals provide their details such as their name, date of birth, and emergency contact information.
A comprehensive screening examination is then conducted for conditions such as tuberculosis (TB).
Additional medical assessments are completed, including blood work and chest X-rays.
Individuals with additional medical complications are directed to the appropriate clinics at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC).
Additional tests include HIV/AIDS. For persons who test positive, care and support are provided through Festival City Clinic.
The shelter also extends its assistance to residents in need of physiotherapy or mental health evaluations, acknowledging the prevalence of psychological issues among those who have experienced life on the streets.
Importantly, the shelter strives to address these underlying challenges, often caused by developmental problems or the trauma of homelessness, as part of its commitment to comprehensive care.
Transitioning to independent living
While the Night Shelter’s scope has expanded beyond its original purpose, it remains committed to its core objective of assisting individuals in transitioning to independent living.
As such, the shelter collaborates closely with the Guyana Post Office and the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) to obtain the necessary documents including, a birth certificate and a taxpayer identification number for many of its residents.
Notably, the shelter’s efforts also extend to elderly individuals aged 65 and above who lack identification.
For these individuals, the shelter assists in obtaining a birth certificate and guides them through the application process for old-age pensions.
To provide residents with the tools necessary for a fresh start, the human services ministry is looking to establish a comprehensive kitchen, catering to diverse health needs, and a library within the shelter.
The shelter continues to stand as a testament to the government’s commitment to alleviating homelessness and fostering positive change for vulnerable Guyanese.