Jamaica strategy: Evict homeless gay men again and again

The Jamaica Observer reports today:

Police were again called on yesterday to evict homeless members of the gay community who had taken up residence in a vacant house on Dewsbury Avenue, two days after they were forcefully evicted by the police from an empty house at nearby Millsborough Avenue in Barbican.

Dewsbury Avenue house where a group of gay men were evicted July 5 after being evicted elsewhere on July 3. (Photo courtesy of Jamaica Observer)
Dewsbury Avenue house where a group of gay men were evicted July 5 after being evicted elsewhere on July 3. (Photo courtesy of Jamaica Observer)

Head of the St Andrew Central Police Division Senior Superintendent Fitz Bailey told the Jamaica Observer that as soon as the police got word that some of the gay men had been seen on the premises, they moved to get them out. …

The house is located in a section of the community where a number of diplomats reside, a source said.

The strategy of repeatedly evicting homeless gay men has come in for criticism. The Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG) stated:

J-FLAG is deeply concerned about the continued reliance on forced eviction as a strategy to address homelessness among poor and vulnerable Jamaicans.

The police operation to remove individuals from a property on Millsborough Avenue on July 3, 2013 is another example of the unnecessarily brutish treatment of the poor and vulnerable who have no place to sleep.

J-FLAG understands these young men have in some instances been disruptive and acknowledges that the police operation sought to apprehend some who are persons of interest. The organisation condemns the unlawful actions of any person, including members of the LGBT community even if they are homeless, and support appropriate actions by the police in this regard. However, far too often, our response to anti-social and criminal behaviour, especially among individuals who are homeless, ignores the root causes of their difficult circumstances.

A number of the individuals who were recently evicted from the property on Millsborough Avenue are homeless because of violent anti-gay attitudes and abandonment by their families and communities. When we focus solely on their behaviour and removing them from places of shelter we continue to ignore the fact that their circumstances are largely the consequence of abandonment, cruelty, and hostility from those who should love and care for them, including state and other social and welfare services.

J-FLAG continues to stress that our collective response to homelessness has been short-sighted and ineffective. Repeatedly removing people from abandoned properties does not solve the fundamental problem, it merely tells them to find somewhere else to sleep at nights. …

The government, private sector, civil society, and church must work together to foster an environment that is safe, cohesive, just, and respectful of the inherent human dignity of all Jamaicans. We cannot rest until we create a stable, empowering and inclusive environment for every Jamaican, especially those among us who are victims of our neglect and intolerance.

The Jamaica Observer reported: “Residents of Millsborough Avenue called the Observer and expressed their gratitude to the police for getting the gays out of their community. The residents had previously complained that the men behaved in a rowdy manner, stole water and bathed naked on the driveway, among other unbecoming acts.”

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at info@76crimes.com. Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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