Ministerial Statement by the Minister of Social Development and Sports, The Hon. Michael A. Weeks, JP MP
Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members will know that the Salvation Army has provided housing opportunities to the homeless and marginalized members of the community at the North Street Shelter since 1982.
Mr. Speaker, some Honourable Members will also recall that the previous Progressive Labour Party Government was actively doing work to bring about a new homeless shelter. Various options were assessed and choices were narrowed down to two main options: redevelopment of the Bishop Spencer facility or redevelopment of the old Prison Headquarters on Happy Valley Road. A decision was made in favour of redevelopment of the Bishop Spencer facility as the site for a new homeless shelter.
Mr. Speaker, during the interval between the 2012 general election and the 2017 general election, the then One Bermuda Alliance Government did not implement the Bishop Spencer project. Now this Government is following up on a promise made by the former PLP Government prior to the 2012 general election to redevelop the Bishop Spencer facility.
Mr. Speaker, It gives me pleasure to announce to Honourable Members that Government has given its approval to the redevelopment of the former Bishop Spencer facility for use as a new Emergency Housing Centre, and intends to work in conjunction with the Salvation Army to make this a reality. Government has prepared a draft Memorandum of Understanding for the consideration of the Salvation Army. The MOU seeks the agreement of the Salvation Army to be responsible for the capital redevelopment of the Bishop Spencer facility at an estimated cost of approximately $3.5M.
Mr. Speaker, the MOU would commit the Government to seek approval of the Legislature to enter into a 99 year rental lease with the Salvation Army, for $1 per annum if demanded, for use of the Bishop Spencer property as an Emergency Housing Centre. The Salvation Army would be responsible for ongoing capital and operational costs of running the redeveloped facility at an estimated cost of $1,200,000 per annum. Government would provide a total operating grant of $1.2M per year to Salvation Army (inclusive of capital maintenance) to cover operational costs, including staffing and programming, subject to annual review.
Mr. Speaker, the existing Emergency Housing Complex, situated at 5 Marsh Lane in Pembroke, is a 54 bed facility that offers nightly bed spaces for the homeless. It is intended that the redeveloped Bishop Spencer facility have a capacity of between 80 to 100 bed spaces, a portion of which would be transitional living space. The building would allow Salvation Army the opportunity to provide one room bachelor apartments as transitional / affordable / supportive living for individuals graduating from the Harbour Light Programme or who have moved through the emergency shelter and are ready to start transitioning back to the community. The expectation is that these individuals would be working and able to pay “affordable” rent.
Mr. Speaker, existing programmes that would be relocated to the redeveloped facility include the Salvation Army’s Food Bank Programme and Daily Feeding Programme.
Mr. Speaker, the Salvation Army would enhance its current programme offerings and operate an extensive range of social programming activities at the redeveloped Emergency Housing Centre. Examples include:
Employment Training Programme: This programme is envisaged as a collaboration between the Salvation Army, the Bermuda College and the Department of Work Force Development. Salvation Army would coordinate the programme and act as a facilitator for students who require additional social, medical, or spiritual support, and assist them in finding work. The Salvation Army would provide a supportive learning environment where individuals with barriers to employment can have a sense of dignity, self-esteem and hope for their future. Possible training areas could include building services / janitorial; basic retail training; or farming skills. The programme would typically be run for approximately 12 weeks inclusive of a work placement, followed by graduation and hopefully full time employment.
Addictions Programme: In partnership with SA’s Harbour Light Programme, Drug Court and the Department for National Drug Control, Salvation Army would have an onsite Addictions Counselor for regular group meetings for individuals who are dealing with addiction issues. SA would then assess the severity of an individual’s addiction, thus enhancing the level of intervention required and to empower them with the tools/knowledge they need to deal with their issues and integrate them into the community to become productive and law abiding citizens or if necessary move them into the Harbour Light Programme.
Quiet Space / Meditation Area: the importance of offering people space to be quiet, reflect and in which to meditate is recognized. The Bishop Spencer facility would lend itself to such activity, which could be augmented by introducing garden therapy.
Recreation / Workout Area: The facility would include a supervised recreation / workout area providing opportunities for individual workout or group recreational activities.
Mr. Speaker, other innovative programmes that could be offered at the new facility by the Salvation Army include:
Foot Care Clinic: In partnership with the Department of Health the Salvation Army could offer an on-site foot care clinic on a weekly basis for individuals who do not have access to medical services. This would be a very important programme to offer to diabetics and others who have complicated issues with their feet.
Home with a Heart: A 13 week course that helps individuals work through topics such as: organizing their home, budgeting, cooking, personal hygiene, parenting, resume writing and basic job skills.
Community Kitchen: This is a 12 week programme, one session per week, that would run 2 or 3 times per year. The programme would take 6 – 10 individuals. Under the instruction of the Salvation Army’s Family Services Director, persons would learn how to prepare and cook inexpensive yet healthy meals for their family. This would teach budget shopping, cooking skills and healthy lifestyle.
Mr. Speaker, this Government intends to support the Salvation Army as much as possible to make the transition of the existing homeless shelter to a redeveloped Emergency Housing Centre become a reality. I will update Honourable Members as this initiative moves ahead.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.