St Vincent de Paul disappointed and concerned with gov’t decision to close homeless centre

Home*Cover Story*News

St Vincent de Paul disappointed and concerned with gov’t decision to close homeless centre

The Society of St Vincent de Paul (the Society) has expressed its disappointment at the decision taken by the Government to close down the Centre for Socially Displaced Persons (CSDP) operated by the Society at Riverside Plaza.

In a release on Saturday, The Society said it is also concerned about certain inferences made in the article published in the Trinidad Guardian on August 21, 2022 concerning this closure.

In addition to the CSDP, the Society operates eleven (11) Homes in Trinidad and Tobago, in line with its mission of providing care and assistance to the “Poorest of the Poor.”

The Society said it executes additional work in line with this mission in sixty-four (64) communities throughout Trinidad and Tobago, via their volunteer network of members. This work has been ongoing in the Country since 1857 non-stop! Funding for work of the Society is provided principally by the private sector, residents’ contributions, members of the public and fundraising activities organised by the Society.

According to the release, monies are also received from the Government specifically for State-supported projects such as the CSDP.

It said, “As with many NGOs over the last two years, the Society has experienced reduced fundraising activities and donations and significantly increased expenses primarily due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Over that time, we have also been facing a new challenge with high turnover of staff particularly in critical areas of our operations.”

The Society said it entered into a contractual arrangement with the Government of Trinidad and Tobago in 1991, through the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services, for the operation of a temporary centre for socially displaced persons at the Riverside Carpark in Port of Spain, until their reintegration into society. The CDSP has a maximum capacity of two hundred (200) persons and is staffed by a Home Manager and thirteen (13) staff members.

Under the contractual arrangement, the Society was required to provide Ministry reports regarding the operation of the Centre. These reports have been consistently provided over the years up to and including December 31, 2021. 2022 reports have been delayed on account of staff turnover as well as non-contractual increased reporting requirements mandated by the Ministry.

The release said, “We acknowledge and support the Ministry’s concern to ensure funds provided by it are properly and appropriately accounted but this has put additional strain on the resources of the Society which were not contemplated when the original contract was struck. We nevertheless continue our efforts to provide the requested information. The audited accounts of the Society were consistently provided as required by the Ministry with the 2018 audited accounts being submitted in 2019. Provision of the 2019, 2020 and 2021 audited accounts have been impacted by the challenges mentioned. This is being actively addressed to have these available during the 4th quarter of 2022.”

The Society said it continues to work on overcoming present challenges to ensure transparency and accountability to all its stakeholders and put to rest any concerns that may have arisen on account of statements in the referenced article. “We also remain committed to our mission of providing assistance to the Poorest of the Poor and look forward to continuing this work with the help and support of kind benefactors who provide donations and patronise our fundraising ventures,” the release noted.