Emergency shelter managers in St, Vincent and the Grenadines are facing issues of sexual abuse, physical abuse, and drug abuse, as well as people who use the shelters as guesthouses, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves says.
“Sometimes, there are violent outbursts that require the intervention of the police. In some shelters, shelter managers are being harassed by the evacuees,” Gonsalves said Wednesday on NBC Radio.
“The mattresses which we gave to people, some people are selling them. Some people are stealing them. They are stealing equipment, utensils and supplies,” the prime minister said, adding that he has to speak about these matters.
“Now, it is true to say it is a small minority of persons who are engaged in this sort of activity but we can’t allow this small minority of persons to create problems for everybody.
“So we have to be understanding but at the same time, firm. And that is the message. We will assist in every single way as the state, representing the collective conscience of the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. But, yet, you have an individual responsibility and you have a family responsibility also,” he said.
Gonsalves said that another situation at some shelters, which ‘has to stop’ is that some evacuees will leave for up to five days then return on the weekend.
“They take a long weekend because they come down to go to Heritage Square, to go some bolo, some bram, some entertainment,” the prime minister said.
“Sometimes they will move into the shelter, bring somebody who was never in the shelter, like a date, nuh. I have to talk about these things.
“You leave the shelter, you leave the shelter, full stop. And it is not a guesthouse for you to be popping in and popping out. No, it can’t happen like that,” the prime minister said.
He noted that when evacuees leave the shelter permanently, the government gives them a package of food supplies to last for two weeks.
When people leave shelters to go back to their communities, their names are also placed on a list so that they can be given food supplies.
“But some persons who want to use the place as a guesthouse to come down for their three days or whatever number of days, every time they leave, they are making noise for their two-week food package. So sometimes they may get one last week and they come again, use it as a guesthouse and they get another package this week,” the prime minister said.
“And some shelter managers are afraid of some persons [because of] how they threatening physical violence and they verbally abusing people.
“Again, this is a minority behaviour but it is more than it should be and one instance is one instance too many and there has to be firmer discipline in that regard. And the commissioner of police has been alerted to this because he and other senior officers were in the meeting.”
The prime minister said that in terms of social support, the government continues to distribute food packages — adding that more than 50,000 of different types and descriptions have been distributed.
“I am not talking about the food in the shelters. I am talking about outside — persons who have gone back, and that continues,” Gonsalves said.