The death of a well-known street character has prompted calls from the Barbados Alliance to End Homelessness (BAEH) for authorities to provide drug rehabilitation and psychiatric treatment for the homeless.
On Wednesday night, police discovered the lifeless body of 45-year-old Ricardo Sylvester Wood on the compound of a business place on King Street, near White Park Road, St Michael, after responding to reports that a man had collapsed in the area around 9:35 p.m.
Police are treating the matter as an unnatural death.
President of the BAEH Kemar Saffrey told Barbados TODAY: “It’s unfortunate to lose a client like this. Mr Wood was a client of the Barbados Alliance to End Homelessness. He was also well known to the general public, having begged for money by the Barbados Family Planning Association for years.”
Saffrey lamented that Wood battled with a drug addiction that he failed to conquer despite repeated assistance from the BAEH and his loved ones.
“We had tried and family members had tried as well. But, in this case, this is one of those clients that wanted to live on the streets. It’s unfortunate that we do lose clients like this but I think this is where we have to do greater work for them, and when I say greater work for them I am talking from a policy perspective.”
Saffrey, who noted that Wood was the ninth or tenth client of the BAEH to have died this year, said drug addiction, which leads to mental health challenges, remains a major issue affecting the homeless.
“Increasingly, we are seeing people who don’t want to come off the streets but they have a serious drug or mental problem and as an organization we can only offer our help through rehabilitation and reintegration,” he said.
Saffrey bemoaned that most people living on the streets were only offered short-term treatment – in jail or at the Psychiatric Hospital – and they quickly returned to society and battled the same issues.
“And the longer that we leave them in society, the more they become a challenge to themselves and to society,” he said.
The BAEH head appealed to authorities to formulate a policy to protect the homeless.
“What we would like to see is that when we deem clients a threat to themselves or society, that we have some policy that takes them off the street into rehabilitation, whether it be drug rehabilitation or psychiatric treatment, and then through a reintegration programme that sees them being able to adjust and cope in mainstream society,” he suggested. [email protected]
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