LAND of the HOMELESS BRAVE


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Aida Garcia

For year-old Keisha, the wet concrete in front of Khemlani Mart on King Street was where she rode out the hurricane. She scratched her sore-riddled body as she described for the Jamaica Observer the fear she felt as she curled up on the cold concrete floor of the piazza and watched as Sandy's strong winds and heavy rains made a mockery of trees, buildings and light posts. I was afraid, yes, but nuh better nuh deh," she said. She has made the streets her home after her brother ran her out of their home in Payne Land when he found out about her disease. She is the mother of two girls, 13 and 15; the younger daughter is in state care after being taken away six years ago when Keisha became ill.

Her older child lives with relatives in Portmore. Like many nights before Sandy made land, Keisha was hungry.

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She said since the hurricane no one has come by to hand -out food to those living on the streets. Thirty-nine-year-old Bridgette James was another homeless woman who weathered the storm on the streets. James, too, is HIV positive and said she was deported from New York in and has been living on the streets of Kingston since.

She said she had lived through other hurricanes in her 16 years on the streets and was, therefore, unafraid. She too said she spent the night hungry while trying to keep herself warm and dry when she found that the usual shelters were flooded with refugees. James pulled out a string of condoms which she said she received from the clinic. She contracted the virus in Sometimes all mi want is a little money to buy a cup of tea.

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Sometimes mi hungry and a cup of tea would help. I know I can't work for society again, so mi sell my body to survive. Seventy-two year old Selvin Duncan curled up next door to the Ward Theatre on a piece of cardboard as Sandy passed through Kingston.

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He said he has been living on the streets for so long that he could not recall exactly when he ended up there. Duncan said he used to wash car windows to make a living and once lived on Oxford Street in downtown Kingston.


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Willel Thomas, 75, was dozing in a handcart inside the Coronation Market. She said she lost her Beeston Street home in a fire a month ago and has been sleeping in the handcart ever since. While she received a mattress from former mayor, desmond McKenzie, she said she has nowhere to put it and had to leave it in the mayor's office. When contacted, administrators of some homeless shelters in downtown Kingston said a number of these street persons refused to come into the facilities and it was a struggle to get them off the streets ahead of the storm.

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