One of the most widely recognised charities serving Bajan citizens is the Barbados Vagrants and Homeless Society (BVHS). Lead by the inspirational visionary Kemar Saffrey, the organisation has quickly become the greatest weapon this nation has to beat homelessness.
Clients come to BVHS for assistance with housing. Food and clothing are available thanks to the many donations made by area businesses and residents. Staff at BVHS can also assist with referrals to the Welfare Department as well as other agencies that provide direct aid.
Some homeless persons live on the streets because they lost their job. A few have been tempted by drugs. Many no longer have friends or family willing to take them in. All are welcome at the leading homelessness charity in Barbados. They get the help they need to stabilise their living situation along with the support necessary to become a productive member of society. Thanks to the efforts of staff and volunteers, clients and residents are able to work towards regaining their independence.
BVHS operates four leading programmes to serve the island’s residents. These are At the Crossroads (ATC), Direct Care Ministries (DCM), On the Road Ministries (ORM) and Life Opportunity Superseding Tomorrow (LOST).
At the Crossroads (A.T.C)
ATC offers vagrants and homeless persons an opportunity to come off of the street with the purpose of rehabilitating them and reintegrating them into society.
Direct Care Ministries (D.C.M)
DCM provides services for walk-in clients. It provides them with jobs, food as well as referrals to assisting organizations such as the Welfare Department, the Psychiatric Hospital, Verdun House and other facilities which can aid in the clients’ needs.
On the Road Ministry (O.R.M)
ORM is our most recent programme where we go from parish to parish in search of vagrants or homeless persons who may not be able to access our services because of our location. This also allows us to ascertain the saturation of vagrancy and aids in the collection of research data.
Life Opportunity Superseding Tomorrow (L.O.S.T)
LOST is the programme where we provide food for over 90 vagrants and homeless persons every week in Independence Square, Bridgetown.
With all of the successes achieved since the start of the organisation in 2008, we wanted to check in with the 2013 Commonwealth Youth Award winner to find out what drives him to commit to a cause that so many others turn away from. We thank Mr. Saffrey for taking the time to answer our questions.
How did you first decide that you would create BVHS to help the poor?
BVHS was never something I planned. I see BVHS as God-given, a path selected for me by God. Having found Christ and becoming a Christian, to help the homeless and vagrant persons of my country was what God had opened up my eyes to.
What has been your biggest surprise?
My biggest surprise is probably having twelve men to enter the program within the first year of building the programme. At first, I was a bit hesitant about getting persons to join BVHS’ ATC rehabilitative house programme since many would have been so accustomed to life on the streets. However, I was astonished at the number who entered the programme within the first year in which it commenced.
Is there a success story that you could share that best indicates the good works of the organisation?
One of our leading success stories is Mr. Peter Francis who is currently one of BVHS’ current employees. Peter has been one of BVHS’ past clients who has been battling alcoholism, drug abuse and best knows about life on the streets. Peter may not have been the best person back then but he has committed himself to a life changing program where he can be able to revert his life and get it back together. Peter eventually came to BVHS for assistance and has entered our ATC Rehabilitative House Program and has been very successful. After undergoing counseling, coping skills and all the necessary activities needed in order to reach our aim “to re-integrate vagrants and homeless persons into mainstream Barbadian society,” Mr Francis has committed himself to this life changing programme and today is the current House Manager of the said ATC Rehabilitative House Program.
How should potential clients contact you?
Any potential client has the opportunity of seeking assistance from the charity by coming to our office or we would go to them. Every week, BVHS has it’s on the road ministry where we will scout vagrants or homeless persons and inform them of our services if they are unaware. For those who are unable to reach our office due to their location, we would take food items to them to facilitate some of their needs.
BVHS offices are located at 1st Floor 62A Tudor Street in Bridgetown, St. Michael next to Builders Value Mart. Enquires may be directed to 246-434-2480. More information about upcoming events can be found at the BVHS website.
BVHS has a cadre of volunteers who assist with activities in the various programmes it undertakes. Broad community support is a major force behind its success. Through public donations and in-kind support, the organisation is able to accomplish a mission that is greatly needed.
Mr. Kemar Saffrey, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, and Ms. K’neka Hope, Chairman’s Personal Assistant assisted with this story. The Barbados Vagrants & Homeless Society is registered as Charity No 794.