Minister for Social Development, Housing and Social Security, Delma Thomas is warning Grenadians that the soon to be instituted Socially Displaced Persons Bill, 2013, will not be used as a dumping ground for family members.
The Act provides for the assessment, care and rehabilitation of socially displaced persons and for related matters in response to public concern over a growing population of displaced people frequenting public places particularly in the town of St George.
The Act, piloted by Minister Thomas, was passed through all its stages in the House of Representatives last week Wednesday and will soon be tabled in the Senate.
A Socially Displaced person is characterised as any idle person habitually found in a public place whether or not he or she is begging and who by reason of illness or otherwise is unable to maintain himself or herself, or has no means of satisfactory account of himself or herself and causes or is likely to cause annoyance or damage to persons frequenting that public place or otherwise to create a nuisance.
The draft legislation provides for the establishment of a Social Development Unit within the Ministry of Social Development for the assessment, relocation, care and rehabilitation of socially displaced persons.
As part of the legislation, it is proposed that a Social Displacement Board as well as a Socially Displaced Fund be established.
The legislation also provides for the establishment of assessment centres and makes provisions for voluntary admission to assessment centre, involuntary admission to assessment centre, as well as applications to law Courts for a removal order and involuntary removal of persons.
Under the planned regulation, socially displaced persons will be subjected to an assessment within 14 days of their admittance, during which time it will be determined if the individual should be discharged from the centre and admitted to a mental institution, a medical institution, a detoxification or drug rehabilitation centre or a care centre.
A unit to review the case of residents at the centres on a monthly basis will also be established and the Unit will have the power to recommend that any resident may be discharged from a care centre conditionally or unconditionally.
According to the draft document, any socially displaced person found guilty of leaving an institution without permission and returning to street life commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a term of imprisonment not exceeding one month.
There is also a sanction in place to deal with disorderly behaviour.
It is proposed that a person residing in a care centre who takes part in an assault on any officer of the care centre, aggravates or repeatedly assaults any other person residing in the care centre, or willfully destroys or steals any property of the centre, or of the staff or other residents of the care centre can be found guilty of committing an offence and sent to the Richmond Hill prison to serve a term not exceeding three months.
According to the legislation: “A person who has completed serving a sentence imposed on him or her under section 28 or 29 shall be returned to a care centre and the Unit shall have the power to grant admission to such person after he or she has served his or her sentence.
“A person who fails to comply with the provisions of section 20 (3) or 20 (6) or any regulations made under this Act commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding $5,000.00 or to a term of imprisonment not exceeding one year”.
Former Social Development Minister now Parliamentary Representative for St Andrew South West, Yolande Bain-Horsford, supported the Act and voiced her concern over the growing number of displaced citizens particularly young people frequenting the communities and towns.
She said that the problem is becoming a risk to residents and visitors’ alike and historical sites such as the Carenage are threatened with the influx of these individuals.
Bain-Horsford believes that society has an obligation to find the root cause of these problems and address them but warned that tackling these problems will require serious financial support and qualified personnel for the success of this project.
Minister for Agriculture, Roland Bhola also gave support to the Act but feared that families can see this as an opportunity to remove persons from their homes and send them into the care of the state.
However, Minister Thomas made it clear that these centres will not be used as a place to dump family members.