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Children, teenagers and elderly people are being abandoned at emergency shelters, Director of the National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO), Michelle Forbes, said on Monday. 

Forbes said that NEMO has established two emergency shelters to house persons who have mobility issues and these persons are “almost bed-ridden and cannot really do anything for themselves”.

There are over 30 persons in these shelters, including 22 at one of them.

“… that’s the main one, it is basically being functioned like a hospice where we have home helpers going and taking care of them,” she said on NBC Radio during the “Eyeing La Soufriere” programme.

“And most of these persons have either been left in the emergency shelters or their families have indicated that they can no longer take care of them. So we have two shelters with those persons. So we are looking at the social protection issues of these vulnerable persons and we are not sure if the families will be willing to take them back. So that’s one issue we are having,” Forbes said.

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Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, who also appeared on the programme, said:

“Let me understand this. Persons have left their mother and fathers and grandmothers and grandfathers, the elderly ones, gone on their own and just left them?”

Forbes responded:

“And left them. And also some of the regular shelters cannot cater for their needs so we have also moved a few to homes that we have established as emergency shelters.

“So they have basically just left them, some are threatening that they will just leave them and go and some have actually left them and gone ahead. They have threatened to abandon them in the shelters. They have been doing that also.”

Forbes said that some people have said that they would abandon their relatives if NEMO does not give them “a wheelchair or if they don’t get better facilities or if you don’t take care of them.

“They no longer want that responsibility to take care of them.”

She said that some people have been asking for hospital beds for their elderly relatives.

The Ministry of Health has provided hospital beds for those people that NEMO has at the two shelters.

“So we have been able to cater for those who have basically been abandoned at these two shelters,” Forbes said.

The prime minister said that the request for a wheelchair is not unreasonable.

“But not because your elderly father or mother or grandmother or grandfather doesn’t get a wheelchair means you abandon them? You insist on getting a wheelchair,” Gonsalves said.

Forbes added:

“We are finding more and more of these issues popping up, PM, and we actually will have to find additional space to house several more persons. We are trying to accommodate a few more people in these shelters.”

There are also cases where parents are going away from shelters “for a couple days and leaving their children unattended,” Forbes said, adding,  

“So there is, of course, the child protection issue.

“We have children, primary school age, being left alone for quite some time, teenagers being abandoned, people going back home and just leaving them there in the emergency shelters and they are not even indicating to the shelter managers that they are stepping out or going to be where. So you have all of these unattended children sometimes within the emergency shelters.”

Forbes said there are “a couple” of these cases in different emergency shelters.

“Some people [are] claiming that they are going home to clean up but you don’t see them for a couple days and they don’t have any communication with the shelter managers.”

When the prime minister asked her for precise numbers, Forbes said that there were about 50 of these children — “both teenagers and young children”.

“Gee-whiz,” the prime minister said, adding, “We have to appeal to the caring instincts of our people.

“You can’t leave your elderly folk like that.  Be honest with the people in the shelters. Go and talk to them and say, ‘Listen, my home is in such a situation, I am not able to take them right now, take them back, can you help me for the moment? I will come and visit.’

“And let them come and visit on a daily basis and help to take care of their people too even while you have home helpers and any medical persons.

The prime minister said that abandoning children or just leaving them in the shelters and not saying anything is unacceptable.

“No man. No. We gah do better than this. We have to hold the social solidarity together in the family and in the community and in the society at large. Please, please, please…

“I am just appealing to people. You know what you have to do. You know it is wrong to leave your elderly like that at the mercy of other people, even though people are helping to take care of them.

“You can’t also abandon your children. I mean, come on. Please. Let’s do this thing – we are a good and civilised people, let us do it properly man. We have enough challenges already. All of us are together in this thing.”

14 replies on “Children, elderly, teens ‘abandoned’ at emergency shelters”

  1. Please in saint Vincent are going to take a lot if advantage because the know somehow it the other Nemo and the government is going to let someone handle the problem even though you all think its wrong. They like ready done. God bless them.

  2. Rhonda Dickson Servant of the Most High God. says:

    O Father of Heaven , in the name of Jesus Christ ,we cry unto thee .Please make a way where there seemed to be no way for us in this nation of SVG. We have done wrong and have forsaken you the God of our fathers. .We have hewn unto ourselves cistern that cannot hold water We confess that we have failed to bring up our children in the fear and admonition of you O father and our children have not been taught to obey their parents in the Lord ,for this is right
    Father , we have sinned against you as a people and unto us belong vexation of faces , but unto you belong loving kindness and tender mercies according to Daniel . All our righteousness is as filthty rags . We have not been taught the way our our God to walk in all His ways.
    Now Father, we are reaping what we sow .Our children have now forsaken their own and are finding it difficult to honor their fathers and mothers which is the first commandment that they may live long on the earth which the you o Lord God has given unto us.
    Forgive us o Father in Jesus name and let us all turn from our wicked ways . Our hearts are saddened by what this land has become , but in your wrath , please remember mercy according to your word.
    Father , you admonished us to” love one another for love is of God and he that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not , knowest not God , for God is love .So beloved let us love one another ( 1 Jon 4:7& 8)
    True ministers of the Gospel , we need to go back to the basic .Preach the love of the Father for His world. God will expose and judge in this season if we neglect to obey His word.

  3. Kenton this is a heartbreaking piece that has forced me to think deeper and to reflect more. We are a caring people what could have changed to encourage this type of apathy? Forbes maybe just giving a ballpark figure to alarm the audience or to suggest that she is visiting the shelters but even if there is one elderly person or one child abandoned that is still too much. But even the other folk in the shelter are they so preoccupied with their own needs that an abandoned one becomes so noticeable?
    This is a sad state of affairs.

  4. A proper Hospital shouldn’t have Nurses who refuse to assist a Childbirth. This is ludicrous. If the staff are not qualified then find other work for them. This context is horrible – HOSPITAL BUILDING, NURSES, DOCTORS, WOMAN IN CHILDBIRTH, HOSPITAL STAFF. This CASE is difficult to justify. NB. WE WILL PROBABLY HAVE TO STUDY THE KABALA to understand this one.

  5. This is an horrendous thing to happen hard to believe.People round the world are watching and listening and there is already bad reports coming out about what is happening.

  6. Charge them with abandonment. I can understand if the home is unsuitable to accommodate the elderly parents but at least give lend a hand at the shelter and give some comfort and reassurance to your elderly and children that things will work out.

  7. Sure looks like some hidden social issues have come out with the evacuation! Maybe SVG needs more social workers and assisted living facilities for seniors.

  8. Turn your pain into power - A Human Rights Advocate and Victim of Abuse says:

    Thank God my daughter and I were able to escape from being a victim and statistic of this ungodly system… by SPEAKING UP…..or else I would have been in a mental home or a hospital right now, while my girl child is being trafficked somewhere to China,Taiwan or Africa. May God continue to Shine his Light upon this nation and expose the darkness. #ahumanitariancrises

  9. What a friend we have in Jesus all our sins and grief to bear what a privilege to carry everything to God in pray , Father have mercy upon your people ,give them strength and courage to go through this time in life, guide guard and protect them from all harm and danger ,they need you every minute every hour ,hide them oh lord until the storm of life is pass.Amen.

  10. KC, you placed my comment under the wrong article. But let me comment on the one. There are some appalling and inhuman things taking place in SVG. How people can stand for that I don’t know. SVG is in a very bad place right now and the time before that. The big shots in charge na give a xxx bout poor people. Thank you KC.
    Two thirds of the population living below the poverty line, disgusting, any way you look at it.

  11. Comerly A. Joseph says:

    KC, although I agree with you, this is not the time for this kind of rhetoric. Yes, our country is in a very bad state of affairs, but we should not blame it all on the Government. In this life, each person(as long as they have all of their faculties), have the ability and responsibility to raise our children in the way that they should grow, so that when they grow old they would not depart from what they were taught. Most of all, parents must also teach their young ones to stay away from bad company. When you look at the heinous crime (murders, unprovoked shootings, robberies, rapes and others) it is appalling). Some of these men and women grew up in good homes, but i do believe that as they become teenagers, peer-pressure from the bad apples drive them to become derelicts.

    Frankly, I feel very much ashamed and humiliated when I go on the internet and read of some of the horrific crimes that are taking place in St Vincent. I have lived abroad for over 40 years, and is looking forward to return to St Vincent in the near future. The volcano is one thing that we must face, however, I feel very uncomfortable and I’m wondering if I am making a good choice. Almighty God is vexed with the behavior of the people of St Vincent. We need to continue to pray for our island and every person therein.

    We also need to pray for the heads of the Government. I have never voted in St Vincent because I came away that long; but regardless to whether or not we appreciate the present Government, it is our duty to pray that God would touch them and command them to do what is right for Vincentians. Let us continue to lift up that nation, as God is still on the throne, and he loves us all.


  12. Living in the Poor People's Republic says:

    We have become the Poor People’s Republic where only “poor people” have any rights. That behaviour is reprehensible and persons should be charged with abandonment. This government has taught people to behave as though they have no personal responsibility for their lives or that of their families. This is not to say that there should not be adequate safety nets in place for those who need assistance. But our mantra now is that poor people can do anything because they are poor.

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