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Homeless LGBT Jamaicans could get new shelter, say police

Homeless LGBT Jamaicans could get new shelter, say police

Police and government authorities in Kingston, Jamaica are reportedly debating opening a new homeless shelter specifically for LGBT individuals.

In October 2012 GSN reported Jamaica AIDS Support (JAS) and the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG) announced the closure of an LGBT homeless shelter because officials were ‘concerned about the action of homosexuals behaving badly and selling sexual services on the streets of Kingston’.

At the time a group of LGBT people were squatting in an abandoned home, and then a sewer, about which local residents submitted complaints about vagrant behavior.

Because of homophobic sentiments and anti-gay laws in Jamaica, LGBT teens and adults are often ejected from their homes after coming out, and forced to find illegal work and lodging.

Now, over the weekend, the same officials who shut down the shelter in October 2012 came together to discuss a potential new shelter, after numerous residents attributed ‘murder, wounding, robbery, car break-ins, house break-ins, malicious destruction of property, one case of shooting, simple larceny, and assault occasioning bodily harm’ to homeless LGBT individuals still living in a sewer.

According to the Jamaica Observer, New Kingston Police Deputy Superintendent Christopher Murdock, who in October reportedly said the youths were behaving ‘in a terrible manner’, proposed the new shelter to address numerous complaints raised.

Murdock reportedly said this group of homeless LGBT people in particular was causing problems:

‘Whilst we are mindful of the sexual orientation and the issues surrounding that, we don’t want to come to the meeting with that because we have other street boys and they do not give us the problem that we are having with these ones.’

This group of LGBTI youngsters has been repeatedly targeted for living in the sewers, constantly under threat of eviction from police and attack by locals.

Jermaine Burton, founder of the group Colour Pink, reportedly said building a shelter would not address the root of the issue.

‘The culture itself doesn’t create an enabling environment to really go and get a shelter as well. If you put up a shelter and people know that this is a shelter [for homosexuals]… it is more problems.’

Officials were reportedly adamant that the homeless shelter would not be for gay rights, but for career development.

MP Julian Robinson said of the shelter: ‘It’s not a home for you to carry on your activities. So when you think of a shelter, don’t think of a shelter for persons to carry on homosexual activities. The shelter we’re looking at is a center where persons can get home training and skills training.

‘There are quite a number of persons living there [in the sewer] now who don’t even have a birth certificate, who have no form of identification, no skills training, no educational qualifications.

The center is to create that, not an area where you are going to say okay, this is where you are going to be carrying on with your sexual activities and carrying on with your lewd behavior, which is associated with the group where they come out onto the streets, they strip themselves, they gyrate… That’s not what we’re about.’

Jamaica Police Department was not available to comment.