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Trinidad: San Fernando Hospital a place of refuge

In addition to providing health care to more than half the country’s population not to mention its successes in sundry surgeries, the San Fernando General Hospital has also over the years become a haven for the homeless. Among patients at the hospital who are being treated for various illnesses could be found former patients who were discharged but continue to remain in the wards because they have nowhere to call home or in some cases no one to take care of them.

In such a situation, the Ministry of Social Development is contacted and they place the former patients in homes. But apart from that group of socially displaced people are the homeless.They do not require medical attention but for various reasons have found themselves without a roof over their heads and sought shelter at the sprawling facility. Hospital authorities are not under any obligation to them.

Some of them roam the streets of San Fernando during the day and at nights return to the hospital for safety. The exact number is not known. One woman in particular has been living at the hospital for the past five years. She is appealing to government for a house so that her life can return to some level of normalcy.

Mary Paria , 60, a mother of one, formerly of Claxton Bay related how in 2009 after her home collapsed during a freak storm she was given an HDC apartment at Pelican Avenue, Lot No 28 in Couva.

Paria said she tried her best to provide for herself and her son but the criminal elements in the neighbourhood made life hard for them. In 2011 she related how men from the area began breaking into her home in her absence. She said at the time her son was a teenager attending secondary school while she worked as a domestic helper. She said one day she returned home to find a strange object in her living room area. She was later told by a police officer that it was part of a gun.

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