The scattering of displaced or formerly homeless MSM or Transgender persons across Kingston due to the challenges in the Shoemaker Gully, downtown Kingston and other parts of the capital (indeed island-wide if one were to really examine the situation) has reaped some blame to at least one of them following a fire at an old court house on East Street. The flames were set to have been set by one of two men who also occupied a room in the building used by squatters for some time and the fire was reportedly set in revenge by one who accused the other of infidelity and spending an amount of cash he was not to have done.
It was only some weeks ago a similar incident outing occurring off East Queen Street had two alleged gay men had to relocate following angry residents descending on them after a heated argument leading to a fight over some clothes, a fire was not the final outcome but the men were left subsequently left without a roof and told not to return; so many skirmishes dotted across town has the New Kingston population of displaced MSM/trans individuals bouncing from here to there.
The police raid as carried by Superintendent Murdock in New Kingston who has been trying to strike a balance between public order and welfare issues with this group has not helped either as now the persons are left to scatter once again in the long line of clashes with the cops and members of the public. One such clash allegedly also occurred in June in the Coronation Market district where one person was accused of stealing or attempting to steal a phone from a woman, he was set upon but managed to escape in the crowded corridor as shoppers try to purchase their ground provisions and so forth. A clash as well with other wondering or cruising populations in the downtown district have not gone unnoticed, the challenge is they occur so frequently these days as cruisers and commercial sex workers jostle for possible clients that it is near impossible to keep up and report on them. The last clash ended up in a stone throwing incident nearing the Railway Corporation office on Darling Street and as a consequence the men who load buses and guide cars to be parked in the informal parking lot have vowed no ‘battyman’ will be allowed near their turf.
Residents at the fire incident at hand are very much up in arms as some have lost everything as the building was raised, school supplies in particular that were just purchased was where the anger was present as former resident complain they have no money to resupply those items while one woman said she had not completed shopping for the remaining items on the list.
Veiled threats have been dropped by some of the residents or victims of the fire possibly directed to at one or both men who are accused of contributing to the blaze as persons tried to fend for items in the cooling down operations. Some persons managed to save what they could and it is unclear as to how many families were actually affected by the fire.
The growing numbers of young MSM/trans persons without a home or job to sustain themselves has been a concern of mine for some near ten years in Kingston in particular as other avenues of escape dry up, Club Heavens where some of the older persons would sleep is no more, so too is Calabash formerly run by the late BeBe Stevenson that was closed after a police raid in Montego Bay in the hunt for lotto scammers. The recent offensive of alleged scammers as well has only sought to add more problems as persons who would take in young unemployed males (gay or straight) for such activity fall from grace the formerly engaged males mostly are left stranded or lost in the cold after arrests, family members who disown or leave them to languish in lockups or forcibly evicted as well apart from new cases of homophobic relatives doing the same.
The age of persons who are being thrown out is also frightening as young as 11 in one case earlier this year and the other challenge is that older men take advantage of some of these youngsters pretending to help them when really what they are after is some fresh meat. These entire issues just further compound the matter of a problem that had a solution but we all know where that went and we now live with the consequences with nice damage control and explain-aways by crafty bloggers and press release writers.
We are told of feeding programs, difficulty to find a place for a shelter, so called Dwayne’s House ideas, politicians hovering to capitalise on the matter and an incompetent LGBT agency in the middle of all this with documentary after documentary yet the populations’ situation has not improved, in fact the last photos and interactions I have had with some of the persons they are clearly not well physically and other videos with musical artists supposedly showing some sympathy also reflects the concern of the actual health of some of the more vocal members of the group.
Where will this Kingston problem end? When there are other smaller fires in St Catherine, St. Ann, Manchester to a certain extent (linked to lotto scamming crack down) and Trelawny as well with this fire adding more back on the streets. The community based shelter assistance is still an option but not for this particular set of homeless gays and transgender persons as the fear if they will wreck ones house and home and while the half way house concept is being pushed by some the needed stabilization work required prior to such residency is nowhere in sight it seems.
Peace and tolerance indeed is required firstly for our own before making demands of and on John Public or the politicians to change laws when all the group is also seen as HIV prevention guinea pigs.
The Star News in the meantime carried an entry on the matter:
Homosexual men, believed to be involved in a heated altercation, are said to be responsible for the massive fire which yesterday gutted a board structure along East Street in Kingston.
More than 20 persons squatting in the building were left homeless. Some residents managed to save a few household items.
Whether the building was insured or the estimated cost of the damage is not known.
One of the more than 20 residents of the dwelling, Charmaine Burch, said she woke up to what sounded like stones being flung against zinc.
She said the men responsible for the fire were homosexuals who were involved in a heated fight at the rear of the premises, which then resulted in the building being set ablaze.
"Same one dem from New Kingston. Mi come out and turn to, and seh to him a waah gwaan inna de yard. Him say he didn't know. Mi come out and look and see mi room up in a smoke," said Burch, who lost everything including money and school items for her four children.
The chaos that emerged saw residents scrambling to remove what little they could, others armed with stones were seen chasing some men further along East Street.
Police at the scene said one of the men responsible was detained at the Central Police Station.