Grand Bahama men recently convicted of violation of curfew were homeless, according to a relative and a local tour operator in interviews with The Nassau Guardian on Thursday.
Carl Johnson, 31; Adam Outten, 22; and James Toussaint, 34, appeared before the Magistrates Court in Freeport on Monday and pleaded guilty to the offense, according to police.
Johnson was sentenced to one year in prison, Outten was fined $500 and Toussaint was fined $1,000 or three months in prison.
Police said the men were arrested in separate incidents on March 20, 21 and 22.
On Tuesday, Raymond Moxey, 53, and Benjamin Antonio, 62, were arraigned on the same charge, with Moxey receiving a fine of $250 or two months in prison and Antonio, who pleaded not guilty, being remanded to the Bahamas Department of Corrections until June 25 for trial.
Johnson’s aunt, Morissa Brown, said her nephew is an alcoholic who has been homeless on Grand Bahama for approximately two years.
She stressed, “My thing is, they arrested him because of the curfew, but he is homeless.”
Brown pointed out that her family was trying to get her nephew to stay with relatives on Eleuthera, but they were torn about how to get him the rehabilitative help there that he needs.
She noted, “My brother said the judge gave [Johnson] a year and they were going to give him a fine, but they gave him time because he was rude to the judge, but you know they go through so much, and he looked like he was under a bad influence in the [police] picture.
“I really think we need to do better for our persons on the street because you have persons on the street walking around this country listening to voices in their head, there is no shelter and then you want to enforce these curfews and you have persons who have nowhere to go — they call them vagrants.”
When questioned last week on what vagrants should do in respect of the previous 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew order, Attorney General Carl Bethel responded, “Shelter in place.
“Wherever it is that they would find shelter in the evenings, they must stay there. It is a sad fact of life that there are too many persons, who for one reason or another, are in that situation.”
Bethel added, “The principle, though, is to shelter in place, not to mix with other persons; keep yourself socially isolated as much as humanly possible. I think that is the best answer that I can give you.”
Police did not provide particulars on the arrests of the five men brought before the courts.
Johnson, Outten and Toussaint were not represented by an attorney, according to Assistant Superintendent and Police Press Liaison Terecita Pinder, in response to The Guardian’s inquiry on the same.
A response to the paper’s inquiry regarding Moxey and Antonio was not provided up to press time.
Brown opined that the homeless men were “being used” to show that officials are serious about the curfew, an opinion echoed by tour operator Barrington Mackey, who expressed concern about what he felt was the homeless being “taken advantage of”.
Mackey, who said he is familiar with four of the five men, disclosed, “Outten hangs out around the taxi union hall and from time to time, the drivers around there would give him things to do.
“[A previous] taxi union president used to give him odd jobs to make sure he eats something and would give him a couple of dollars to pick up stuff around the place, but he has no place to live.
“They used to allow him to sleep in the old buses in the back of the [taxi union hall] yard.”
Outten’s aunt Barbara Gibson, in a subsequent interview, said the young man is not homeless, but lives with his mother and grandmother in Eight Mile Rock.
Toussaint would frequent Freeport’s Columbus Park area and Johnson would frequent the area of Freeport known as “the ghetto”, according to Mackey.
Antonio, who many in Freeport recognize as a long-term vagrant, “has been on the streets since I was in high school”, he stated.
Homelessness and vagrancy in The Bahamas are longstanding and complex problems, as is the case in other countries.
Of the arrest and convictions of Johnson, Outten and Toussaint, Mackey said, “It’s just like taking advantage of these people.”
He revealed that he too has family who live on the streets and struggle with addiction.
Mackey asserted, “Some of these homeless guys sleep right on the side of the road, no shelter, no nothing; that’s the kind of life these guys live.
“Sometimes they reach a point, whether it’s through them being zoned out or high, they just lie down wherever, and fall sleep.
“So where is the consideration for that?” he asked.