TW: problematic language, transphobia, homophobia
BY KIMBERLY HIBBERT Sunday Observer staff reporter email@example.com
Sunday, July 27, 2014
In this April 4, 2014 photo, two of the young, gay and transgender men who mostly sell sex to make money hang their clothes in the Shoemaker gully in New Kingston where they live. (PHOTO: AP)
A senior police officer has proposed the establishment of a shelter where homeless gay men in New Kingston can access medication, psychological evaluation, counselling and skills training.
Commanding officer for the New Kingston Police, Deputy Superintendent Christopher Murdock, made the suggestion at a meeting last Thursday attended by residents of communities in New Kingston, some of the homeless young men, business operators in the financial district, and representatives of interest groups, including the National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA).
The meeting, arranged by Government parliamentarian Julian Robinson, whose constituency includes the affected area, was called in an effort to address problems being experienced by residents and business owners in relation to the behaviour of the homeless gay men.
Police say they have received reports of murder, wounding, robbery, car break-ins, house break-ins, malicious destruction of property, one case of shooting, simple larceny, and assault occasioning bodily harm, most of which they have attributed to the young men who live in the Shoemaker gully on Trafalgar Road.
"The fact that you are homosexuals doesn’t mean that the behaviour has to be bad," Murdock told the homeless men attending the meeting.
But one woman suggested to Murdock that he needed to accept the fact that because the young men are thrown out of their homes, “they learn street culture”.
Until that reality is recognised and accepted, “we are going to always have this problem of finding the solution, because they are going to develop the behaviour to survive on the streets”, she said.
But Murdock, in his defence, said that other homeless men are not indulging in acts of criminality.
"Whilst we are mindful of the sexual orientation and the issues surrounding that, we don’t want to come to the meeting with that because we have other street boys and they do not give us the problem that we are having with these ones," he said.
However, Murdock’s shelter proposal was questioned by Jermaine Burton, founder of the group Colour Pink.
"You have come up with the idea of a shelter, but how have you reached a shelter, because you guys have been on the issue of the shelter… that is like reinventing the wheel from how long," he said.
"The culture itself doesn’t create an enabling environment to really go and get a shelter as well. If you put up a shelter and people know that this is a shelter [for homosexuals]… it is more problems," Burton said.
But Robinson quickly clarified the purpose of the shelter, saying that it would be a place for sustainable development.
"It’s not a home for you to carry on your activities," said the MP. "So when you think of a shelter, don’t think of a shelter for persons to carry on homosexual activities. The shelter we’re looking at is a centre where persons can get home training and skills training.
"There are quite a number of persons living there (in the gully) now who don’t even have a birth certificate, who have no form of identification, no skills training, no educational qualifications. The centre is to create that, not an area where you are going to say okay, this is where you are going to be carrying on with your sexual activities and carrying on with your lewd behaviour, which is associated with the group where they come out onto the streets, they strip themselves, they gyrate… that’s not what we’re about," he stated.