Thursday, November 7, 2013

Homeless Awareness Month: Flashback to New Kingston's Displaced MSM

A detailed look at some of the older populations of displaced and homeless MSM and their challenges from as early as New Kingston's business district came to being.
recorded November 7th

November is seen as homeless awareness month in some parts of the world and parenting month here in Jamaica but parenting ideology that seems to ignore LGBT youth at varying levels; case in point the recent comments by the Family Planning Board albeit they have merged with national HIV program. MSM homelessness is an ISLANDWIDE problem not just limited to the New Kingston business district that now is the target of a new kind of LGBT crisis reporting to use them to collect data in light of the upcoming buggery case in the Supreme court slated for November 2014, where were the present so called concerned all this time?

Taken from a recent Observer article:
Dr Sharlene Jarrett of the National Family Planning Board said the constraints in providing direct sexual and reproductive health service to gay teens is the same as reaching the wider adolescent population because of the clash between existing policies and the law.

"There is a serious barrier in terms of what we can provide to MSMs," she told the Sunday Observer.
As such, she said these gay teens have to be reached at the treatment sites, albeit that this is usually after they have become infected with a sexually transmitted disease.

"For MSMs our national HIV programme doesn't have data in terms of the age range of these teens coming to the workshops which we have been having for the past three years to link them to support services," she said, noting however, that what is being done to reach these gay teens is just not enough.
"There are limits to where you can carry a group of young men to give them a service which will help them," she said.

Chief executive officer of the Jamaica Family Planning Association, St Rachel Ustanny, also agreed that services for gay teens are limited.

With the conflict between law and policy preventing the wider youth population from accessing contraceptive services such as condoms, Ustanny said the problem must be large within the sub-population group of MSMs.

Ruth Chisholm, country programme manager for Population Services International/Caribbean, said the current environment makes it very difficult to provide information and counselling to these gay teens.

"There would be less demonisation if dialogue started in the home as this is a key solution to some of the challenges," she said.

But this dialogue has not started in the home for gay teens, as the Jamaica Forum for all Sexuals Lesbians and Gays (J-FLAG) Executive Director Dane Lewis said it is becoming an increasingly common practice for some parents to turn out their children when they self-affirm or are suspected of being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT).

JFLAG in the meantime continues to pass the buck on the issue by demanding that government get involved when we know fully well that they are in no way interested or want to see directly addressing this in fear of loss of votes, simply put while no direct programs are being developed within the last four plus years of the very public challenges with the ever changing populations. Homeless MSM have always been in New Kingston mostly migrating from downtown from parks or old buildings. 

The very former JFLAG office and parent NGO Jamaica AIDS Support for Life Office on 4 Upper Musgrave Avenue (above now demolished) was squatted on long before both groups moved in the nineties as the building was empty for some time. The men at that time shared the house with female commercial sex workers while charging them fees as well to use the room while the younger men would use the water supply to shower and cook. Other former open spaces turned buildings and parks such as Emancipation Park had men staying over night on many occasions, other spots now turned town houses also had this occupation problem.

The sudden interest by some in this population especially post the Safe House Pilot project closure in 2009 is interesting to say the least even as the men themselves hung around the old office prior to the landlord taking action by an eviction notice. 

There are three major waves I can recall the main one had both the causation becoming the very thing that diminished the numbers that being HIV/AIDS and related infections, many persons in that 80s era were evicted due to discrimination as AIDS related diseases then were far more visible than today with less sophisticated antiretrovirals around. Then came the second major wave of younger displacees who in turn were distracted by other not so legal activities where some of the men got themselves involved. However since the down turn in the economy, the not so legal activities losing grip and the increase in forced evictions over time caused the present third major wave to include the dubious closure of the Safe House opened under Jamaica AIDS Support, JAS in 2009 which sent the men into New Kingston itself joining others who were already on the road and the subsequent police crack downs and public clashes. 

Other spaces in the business district to name a few that housed or were illegally occupied by displaced MSM include:

emancipation park under construction was used when it was an open lot 

the old Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation building when it was closed was occupied by a myriad of homeless persons including MSM now turned the Ministry of Works office.

The new UK visa/document pick up once an old unoccupied house

An old hotel on Trafalgar now turned Scotiabank's Card Center and so on

Unfortunately homelessness has not risen to the level of importance as decriminalizing buggery has so the men are just data collection material and recipients of tokenism by more privileged advocates. Why has this not gotten the attention it deserves folks your guess is as good as mine as HIV prevention and MSM advocacy trumps the welfare issues. We keep hearing of upcoming shelter ideas, donation drives that die as soon as they are born and just side-lining of this group for so long.

also see some previous post from as early as 2009:

On homelessness, evictions, hypocrisy & now JFLAG's own displacement ...............

The Safe House Project background from the conceptualizer …………………

The Quietus ……… The Safe House Project Closes

The Ultimatum on December 30, 2009

And MSM continue to be ready material for data collection

Street MSM Stone J-FLAG – After Being Cleared From Gov’t Property

Kingston’s Homeless MSM challenges scream for proper attention

And we continue to reap the world-wind for not addressing homelessness when it was manageable

Utmost hypocrisy , J-FLAG

A claim on How to help homeless LGBT Jamaicans ..... let us not forget it was the same Jamaica Observer who accused JFLAG of abandoning the homeless MSM specifically in New Kingston in an older editorial:

Marauding homosexuals and J-FLAG (Observer Editorial) ……………………

Homelessness, rape and HIV (Observer)

Think on these things people, lots of our lessers have fallen through the cracks right under the very noses of the ones who shift responsibility and just basic concern and well funded agencies who simply do not care. All this happenings when exactly a year ago in a town-hall meeting JFLAG's Executive Director said a space was identified yet no follow up to actually tell the community the deal fell through due to legal challenges.

also see: Homeless impatient with agencies over slow progress of promised shelter (with a podcast included)

Interfaith group treats homeless MSM in St Catherine

Peace and tolerance



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