|Minister points to signs of increasing poverty|
Guardian Staff Reporter
Published: Jul 04, 2012
There is a growing number of people who are homeless or reside in poor living conditions throughout New Providence, according to Minister of Social Services Melanie Griffin.
“One of the most glaring issues is definitely homelessness or persons living in houses that are not conducive to human existence with no light, no water and in many cases there are no facilities for waste,” she told The Nassau Guardian on Monday.
While Griffin could not provide the figures, she said many Bahamians live in such conditions and the number continues to grow.
Griffin said the social workers attached to Urban Renewal 2.0 — a program which tackles social issues in communities — have reported the increase.
She said the majority of people who live in poor conditions do not seek assistance from the government.
“A lot of people would just rather stay in their conditions,” the minister said.
“They may not come to [the Department of] Social Services. If they come into the center, they may say ‘I need food’ and Social Services would deal with the food situation, but they would not tell you about the conditions in which they live. So the hands on in the community is good.”
She said that before Urban Renewal was relaunched, the Ministry of Social Services already had a “critical staff shortage”.
“We need extra manpower,” she said.
Griffin highlighted staff shortages following her appointment in May.
She said the economic downturn and the rise in the unemployment rate resulted in thousands of people turning to the government for help over the last five years.
“Staffing issues have crippled the Ministry of Social Services,” Griffin said at the time.
“Social Services has always been a major component of Urban Renewal and it’s the same with Urban Renewal 2.0.
“Social workers are the nuts and bolts of Urban Renewal in that we have trained social workers who are designated to each outreach center.
“We still have to find the manpower in order to meet the needs of Urban Renewal 2.0.”
Griffin said the Department of Social Services has also seen a “major, major” increase in applications for rent assistance.
But Griffin hopes that as the economy rebounds fewer people will be looking for help.