This is a proposal to provide ”Transitional Housing” for residents leaving the Government Industrial School. The School has a Transition, Support and Aftercare Unit, (TSA Unit) which is staffed by its Social Workers. The basic responsibility of this Unit is to prepare the residents for their transition into society and to provide the needed support and aftercare to residents on their release. As a result, in order to eradicate homelessness a long tern transitional housing facility is being proposed to be added to the existing aftercare programmes.
In response to a need expressed by offenders, ex-offenders and those throughout the offender reentry community, a direct response to homelessness has been identified at the Government Industrial School, where some residents who after completing their sentence at the School find themselves with no homes to return to. The transitional housing will provide temporary accommodation for young people between the ages of sixteen to nineteen (16-19) years old who are no longer eligible to return to the State’s Child Care Board Homes from whence they came. Safe Haven will provide these young people with a supportive environment where they can hone the necessary life skills and actively seek employment so as to improve their opportunities in life, alleviating poverty and gradually reintegrate into society.
Therefore, it is proposed that reintegration be accomplished through the acquisition of a residential housing facility which is large enough to accommodate at least three residents. The transitional period will be considered on an individual basis, however, assessments will be completed on a twelve (12) month period and extended options will be available if the situation merits. In addition, clothing, food and several resources will be provided all with the aim of helping those young people become self-sufficient.
Services at this facility will combine clinical treatment, behavioural therapy, sexual reproductive health, educational and vocational opportunities as well as job/entrepreneurial training and life skills. Finally each young person will be assessed as well as goal attainment will be continued to meet their need and transition into society.
The Government Industrial School (G.I.S) was established in 1883. The School is the juvenile detention division of Barbados’s Juvenile Justice System which has the unique legal responsibility of keeping in secure custody all juveniles between the ages of eleven and sixteen (11-16) years old, that are sent by the Law Courts of Barbados. This institution comprises of a Male Unit which includes the Administrative Headquarters located at Dodds Land, St. Philip and the Female Unit which is located in Barrows, St. Lucy. The School is managed by the Principal, the Vice Principal and the House Mistress along with a cadre of well qualified professional staff.
The School caters to two (2) categories of persons, these are the Remands residents which are a transient population who are sent to the School to be kept until the date of hearing of their Court case and there are the Committals Residents who are sentenced to the School for a period of three to five years. According to l.R.O. 1998 Reformatory and Industrial Schools Act Cap.169 Part III Section entitled Classes of Children to be sent to Schools states that a child under the age of sixteen (16) can be sentence to a School and there be detained for a period of not less than 3 years and not more than 5 years.
The Government Industrial School over the years has managed to achieve a philosophical change from that of being a punitive institution to a more therapeutic model, which emphasis is on rehabilitation through its corrections educational programmes. The School is committed to its mission of keeping residents in safe and humane environment that ensures a good education, address offending behaviour and offers to the resident, emotional and psychological support. In order to achieve such working with families is facilitated to assist in preparing residents to successfully reintegrate in society leading law abiding and responsible lives after being released.
Homelessness is the identified social problem which this proposal is seeking to address. Sociologists have been unable to agree on an adequate definition of social problems, however, according to Charette, C. (1991) the definition of homelessness applies to situations where ”the basic standards of physical adequacy, security of tenure, personal safety and accessibility to employment and health care are met”.
Eitezen and Zinn (2003) posit that ”social problems have always been thought of as social situation that a large number of observers felt were inappropriate and needed remedying”. Whatever the definition, homelessness is not a new phenomenon and it is one of the social situations which are present in many cultures all over the world and one which is in dire need of remedying especially for ex-offenders of Government Industrial School.
Furthermore, Shaefer and Horejsi (2003) states that homelessness tend to mean that in many important aspects that an individual is outside of society, noting that without and address and telephone it is virtually impossible to look for work or even apply for public assistance and what is more is that being homeless carries a serious stigma which can lead to prejudice and discrimination. Shaefer and Horejsi (2003) further notes that the profile of the homeless has changed significantly over the past three decades, with today’s homeless being younger, as well as the changing economic and residential patterns accounts for much of the increase in homelessness and that there was an undeniable link between the growing shortage of affordable housing and the rise in homelessness.
Available Homeless Housing Programmes
In the Barbadian context homelessness is a reality for many, in a recent article printed in the Barbados Nation Newspaper dated April 05, 2013, journalist Antoinette Connell highlighted the plight of the homeless as they frequent the city streets, the stories of homelessness are varied as they range from hard times due to unemployment, family disputes and displacement through house fires and or drug use. However, at night the stories are the same as human beings all seek a place to rest for the night; many of them find refuse at the Clyde Gollop Night Centre which is the lone homeless shelter for men.
Nevertheless, in recent times the Barbados Vagrants and Homeless Society, which is a non-governmental organization has risen to the challenge of reintegrating the homeless population into mainstream society, however, its Executive Director, Mr. Kemar Saffrey has voiced concern that some organization may be hampering the efforts of that organsation and by extension enabling the homeless by constantly fulfilling certain needs. One such need is that of supplying them with hot meals, which he theorizes that by fulfilling such needs makes the homeless more dependent and less motivated to reintegrate into society. Mr. Saffrey contends that this approach of giving the homeless ”handouts” as opposed to a ”hand up” is counterproductive to what his organization is trying to achieve.
The social problem of homelessness among the Barbadian youth is not well documented however, a Canadian study using data from the Children’s Aid Society of Metro Toronto explored homelessness as it related to youth leaving the Child Welfare System at the age of sixteen (16). This study concluded that despite the best intentions in the Child Welfare System, youth who are formerly in care have not been properly prepared for independent living and therefore these youths are less likely to have a supportive network of family and friends. Thus these findings can related to the emerging trend among the residents leaving the Government Industrial School (G.I.S.), who on being released from the School on a yearly rate often find themselves without a supportive network of friends or family and without a place to live.
It is therefore against this background that the ”Safe Haven’ has committed to ensuring that these young persons are given the opportunity to return to society with and improved chance of being a well-adjusted citizen without reoffending. It is envisaged that this programme will provide these youth with a sense of hope for the future and the motivation to follow through on the path to adulthood with a sense of pride and accomplishment.
The challenge to find homes for a particular group of residents of the Government Industrial School (G.I.S.) after they have served their sentence has been identified as the social problem for which the ”Safe Haven” transitional housing is being proposed as the solution. This situation is one of grave concern, since a trend has emerged over the years, where placement of this particular group who were in Residential Care prior to being sentenced to (G.I.S), has become a daunting task. This particular group and growing population would have been place in Care for a myriad of reasons which includes being abandoned at birth, being physically/sexually abused in their homes, or in some cases lost of both parents to either death or imprisonment.
Furthermore, this situation is also mirrored in literature relating to a Canadian study wher Roseneck etal. (199) suggest that it is difficult to provide a typical profile of homeless youth and there are some characteristics which are prevalent, these include the average age being (16) where many have been forced out from their parent’s home and most have experienced emotional, sexual and or physical abuse. Additionally, many of these youth would have been in contact with the Child Welfare System.
Inevitably many of these young people run afoul of the law and subsequently, are sentenced to Government Industrial School (G.I.S). However, the difficulty lies in the fact that these young people are sentenced for three or five years, many of these sentencing is so structured to ensure that on completion of the sentence the juvenile would have attained the age of sixteen (16) which is the cut off age for mandatory school attendance in Barbados. The anomaly here is that many of these young people grew up in Residential Care all their lives however, despite this being Residential Care being the only home they have ever known, they are unable to return to these Institutions after being released since the eligible age to be placed in Care is also sixteen (16). Consequently these young people find themselves homeless.
Similarly, there are also residents who may have homes to return to; however, in many instances the home environment is not conducive to that young person staying on a path of rehabilitation since the abuser/s may still be part of that household. However, in the absence of alternative accommodations they reluctantly return to these homes. In many instances these reunions with families are short lived and these young people return to a life of deviance. These young people are then left in a state of desperation and a belief that the System has failed them. Their future then appears to be bleak since they are past the age of sixteen (16) and no longer eligible to be taken into Care neither can they remain in the Government Industrial School (G.I.S.).
Through the Transition, Support and Aftercare Prrogramme at the Government Industrial School some support is being provided to Residents/ex-offenders after they are released, however, the absence of a housing component has been very distressing for the organization and the Residents/ex-offenders who fall into this category. It is therefore against this background that the ”Safe Haven” transitional housing is being proposed. A residential facility such as this will afford these young people a chance to lead productive lives.
In light of the above a needs assessment was conducted using the committals from both the male and female Units of the Government Industrial School who participated in the survey. Please note the offences for which the residents have committed range from indictable offenses to summary convictions however, the reasons for their detention have no bearing on this survey since the offence has no impact on homelessness. According to Homan (2004) a needs assessment is the process of identifying the range of a community’s needs or for more clearly understanding a particular need. Homan (2004) further highlighted that the assessment can include a large or small population and can be designed to uncover any unmet needs or only those needs in certain areas.
Target Population for ”Safe Haven”
The primary target population is all committals at the Government Industrial School who came from the Child Care Board Residential Homes and has no other family support. The secondary population will encompass committals whose home environment are not conducive to their continued rehabilitation or may lack the necessary social support.
The ”Safe Haven” will provide young adults exiting the Juvenile Justice System at the Government Industrial School, with transitional housing. This will be complemented by the necessary resources and support needed to afford them the greatest opportunity for a successful transition and reintegration into society alleviating poverty in their adulthood.
”Safe Haven” will be a model organization where proficiency and competence will be the hallmark. We will serve to be proficient and compassionate in the execution of our tasks while meeting the needs of our occupants. We will work together as a unit to ensure that their psychosocial needs are met so that Residents may become law-abiding, self-sufficient and productive individual’ adults who are able to realize their potentials in life as they reintegrate into society.
‘ To provide this particular group of young people with adequate housing.
‘ To empower these young people to become self-sufficient and independent
‘ To ensure a smooth and seamless transition into society.
‘ To facilitate the holistic development of these Residents.
‘ The provision of all the necessary infrastructural assets and human resources to
ensure that the past Residents are provided with safe and secure accommodations.
‘ The provision of basic skills, critical thinking skills, personal qualities and
also to develop workplace competencies.
‘ Educational programmes will be provided to encourage and assist past Residents to continue their education and provision be made to incorporate the development of interagency linkages and services to allow Residents to move directly into the workforce.
‘ The development of programmes and services to ensure Psychosocial needs are
addressed especially specific needs such as sexual and physical abuse,
abandonment neglect or personal loss.