Editorial & Opinion

Community Opinions- USVI Homelessness

Interviews conducted by Lana Cuffy

STT- The United States Virgin Islands is in a crisis facing homelessness.

“…as of January 2018, Virgin Islands had an estimated 486 experiencing homelessness on any given day.”

According to the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness Statistics, “as of January 2018, Virgin Islands had an estimated 486 experiencing homelessness on any given day.”

Furthermore, it was also stated that “Of that total, 26 were family households, 24 were Veterans, 4 were unaccompanied young adults (aged 18-24), and 307 were individuals experiencing chronic homelessness.”

On St. Thomas, there are many individuals that were interviewed about the social significant problem in the community, to include elementary students, media personalities, and persons at the University of the Virgin Islands. This community is aware of the significant issue and provided their opinions on the following questions:

  • How do you feel about the “Homeless” people topic in the U.S. Virgin Islands?
  • What can you do to help?
  • Why are there homeless people on the streets in the U.S. Virgin Islands?

Why are there homeless people on the streets in the U.S. Virgin Islands?


Jahfari Green

6thGrade
Joseph Sibily Elementary School
Age: 11

Many reasons. In most cases, it’s their fault. They didn’t pay attention in school. They aren’t the worst people in the world; they just need help. What can the community do to help? Will your actions promote awareness? The community can donate to charities. They also need to make sure people are not falling for fake “homelessness” that want money for selfish reasons. We must be smart. I know that I can help by donating too when I earn money.


Lesley Comissong

Media Personality

Most of our homeless issues in the territory are often associated with mental illness. We have yet, for several decades, to get our act together in terms of a comprehensive approach to how we deal with the mentally ill and providing the proper facilities. There needs to be a revamping of our laws. For instance, there are a lot of families in situations where a member is mentally ill, and they cannot do the things that they would like to do to assist them. Quite frankly, many people are on the street because they don’t get the treatment they deserve. What are some solutions to this homelessness situation? I would personally donate money, or food items when approached by the person in need. Besides donations, the government can fund facilities (long-term)that are essential for these homeless individuals of the territory. This homelessness situation awareness could be raised through social media, print media, along with talk shows on radio and television about the ongoing issue.

Keryl Liburd 
Diver, Virgin Islands National Park
Age: 22
It’s becoming an issue. The government needs to address mental issues, which is the cause for most of them to be homeless. Funding must be set aside for mental health care. Funding can also be set aside for providing grooming and professional development seminars. Moreover, there is so much we can do as a community to help solve the homelessness issue. For instance, the community can volunteer more often. I am already helping by donating money, assisting with soup kitchens, clothing drives, and more. Not all homeless people are mentally challenged, some are just in need financially and are searching for ways to turn their life around seeking opportunities.

Joel Marteny
Resident
Age: 28

It’s a sad situation. These people are facing mental, physical and financial issues. What are some solutions to this homelessness situation? I have no plan to directly assist, yet. However, the government should seriously focus on medical facilities focusing on conditions that affect the homeless people. *requested not to use real name.


Dr. Joyce Campbell
UVI School of Business: Finance
Professor
It’s a sad situation knowing that unfortunate people have no place to go. I am just curious as to how they eat, where they sleep; due to our climate, these people are not of concern by the community to get immediate help. What can the government do about this homelessness situation? They need to provide a special home for them to live while providing adequate assistance for financial issues, addiction, and mental illness. We, too, can help by paying attention and not looking away.

Simra Desir
University of the Virgin Islands
Senior Student
Homelessness is something that is very serious. We need to do more as a community to assist in making their life better. I feel sympathy for these homeless people. They did not plan for their life to change—ending up on the streets with no other options. What are some solutions to this homelessness situation? I can do more volunteer work at the soup kitchens. I think that they should be more accessible all over the island. Also, the local government needs to set up shelters specifically, for homeless people that have a mental issue.

Adelle Cuffy
University of the Virgin Islands
Freshman Student
Photo credit: Adele Cuffy
I feel that this problem can be controlled. Yes, each homeless persons situation may vary, some avoidable and unavoidable. What can the government do about this homelessness situation? Homelessness in the U.S. Virgin Islands may not be solved but can be alleviated. Some cities in the U.S. mainland, such as San Diego and Los Angeles, get paid about $15 per hour to clean the streets and highways. This is a great idea because the authorities are killing two birds with one stone(it helps with the person financially and helps keep the community clean). Our local government should use that idea to resolve major issues of this problem.

Shevon Sprauve
University of the Virgin Islands
Senior Student Age: 21
Do you think that the “Homeless” people in the U.S. Virgin Islands are being treated fairly?
No, we don’t have facilities to assist them. There are many of them that need mental care. If the United States of America can afford it, then we can too by having the appropriate funding to the Department of Health. What can you do about this homelessness situation? I have volunteered. One person cannot do much. This is an issue that needs solving collectively.

Nicole Hatfield
Librarian, University of the Virgin Islands
Age: 42
It’s a sad situation because I think most of them have a mental disorder that needs attention. What are some solutions to this homelessness situation? Voting; Voters can make concerns known to the lawmakers. The government needs programs to help these people. Facilities are needed to provide proper mental care services. Furthermore, I can financially support these homeless people whenever they ask for pocket money from me.

Janéa Joseph
University of the Virgin Islands
Freshman Student
Age: 17

Homelessness is a huge concern on this island. There are many factors that cause people to become homeless. For instance, I do have one family member that was homeless, but not on island. This family member was from Antigua and was peer pressured, which lead to be shameful, which made the person go crazy mentally. The results after those events that lead to being homeless were due to developing bad addictions.

When this occurred six years ago, there was a rehab facility on the island. My relative proved to have had a successful recovering with the help of the local facilities. So, I informed you of my personal story to say that facilities for homeless or rehabilitation works. If there are the right programs and organizations implemented here on St. Thomas, this local community would be able to lend a helping hand.

Something needs to be done to assist these people. I would personally donate money, or food items when approached by a homeless person. I believe that donations, the government funding facilities, volunteer work and the need to be treated with respect. After all, they are humans too, and I respect them. There is hope.


Serita Somersalle
University of the Virgin Islands
Sophomore Student
Age: 21
What can you do to help? I have been here for two months and I have seen many homeless persons. I see that St. Thomas does not have any housing for these people. Where I am from [St. Kitts], the government has a facility for homeless persons or anyone who need help with addictions, or mental problems. Back home, I am a part of my church’s pathfinder group, and we often go to assist those in need. I feel that everyone has their part to assist with this issue.

The homelessness situation could get worse since there are no proper resources made available by the local government at this time. Of course, homelessness is an extreme form of poverty characterized by the instability of housing and financial problems arising.
The first state begins with people staying temporarily with friends or family; [this is known as] “hidden homelessness.”
  • The first state begins with people staying temporarily with friends or family; [this is are known] as “hidden homelessness.”
  • The second state are people temporarily in emergency shelters known as “shelter dwellers.
  • Last state are those living on the streets are  referred to as “rough sleepers.”

Being homeless lacks in shelter, limits opportunities, and creates barriers in social participation in society.

Indeed, homelessness is not an issue locally and confined to the USVI; it exists in all countries and most communities in the world.

In the U.S. Virgin Islands, homeless people face many problems beyond the lack of safety and suitable homes.

People become homeless for many reasons which include the lack of financial stability, unemployment, and even life events.

Being homeless is devastating, dangerous, and isolating.

Being homeless is devastating, dangerous, and isolating but The U.S. Virgin Islands homelessness situation can be solved by getting everybody involved. Yes, there are organizations that lend a helping hand, but more effort is needed by individuals, businesses, and the government.

Life has its ups and downs, but people always look for the better. There is hope.

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