Following a report that several men charged with violating curfew on Grand Bahama were allegedly homeless, Bishop Walter Hanchell, chairman of Citizens For Justice Bahamas, condemned their arrests as “wrong and totally unjust”.
The curfew was imposed by the prime minister as an attempt to contain the spread of COVID-19 in The Bahamas.
Individuals who violate curfew are subjected to up to 18 months in prison or up to a $10,000 fine.
In a press statement released Saturday, Hanchell called for the “homeless” individuals who were arrested and charged to be “released immediately and placed in a safe house by the government”.
“We are outraged and extremely disappointed with what is happening to the homeless and disenfranchised and appeal to Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis and Chief Justice the Hon. Brian Moree to kindly address and correct this serious injustice,” Hanchell said.
“It was a grievous error to arrest and imprison homeless persons.
“They are the most vulnerable in our society and should have been protected rather than arrested.”
Hanchell, who is also the president of Great Commission Ministries (GCM), recently said the organization was actively trying to find a facility to house the homeless during the emergency curfew period.
“Many of our homeless are mentally challenged,” Hanchell continued.
“Others are drug addicts and a number of them display emotional and spiritual problems.
“They are ignored, rejected, abused and despised by the community at large.”
He added, “Funding must be made available to assist such persons.
“Many others may find themselves homeless, unemployed and broke as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that has impacted the entire world.”
GCM has seen an increase in the number of people looking for assistance since the effects of COVID-19 shut down the tourism industry and led to the closure of numerous businesses.
Social Services Minister Frankie Campbell has advised homeless people, who have nowhere to go during curfew, to seek assistance from the Department of Social Services.