Squatters get out! - Dwellers to be booted from People’s Arcade
Lennox Wallace, the chief public health inspector for St James, says the St James Health Department will be pressing the Jamaica Railway Corporation (JRC) to remove squatters from the People's Arcade in Montego Bay, as part of its drive to combat the parish's growing rat population.
"We will be serving the JRC with a notice to have those persons who are living in the People's arcade removed because the Arcade is a commercial facility, and you have persons who are living there. This has resulted in an increase in garbage, indiscriminate disposal of garbage, and the proliferation of rodents," Wallace told WESTERN STAR.
Earlier this month, the Health Department launched a major campaign to address the rat infestation, which has affected the operations of businesses in Montego Bay. The campaign coincides with the St James Municipal Corporation's plans to target business operators whose improper waste disposal practices encourage the presence of the pests.
Wallace said the Health Department wants to partner with the JRC and the municipal corporation to bring the initiative to the People's Arcade, which has been at the centre of past controversy because of the squatters living at the facility.
"The vendors in Montego Bay have welcomed the initiative, but what we want to do is to move it to the People's Arcade. That is going to cost no less than $1 million, but there are activities there that we will have to take care of first with the parish council (municipal corporation) and the JRC," said Wallace.
"A notice will be served to the JRC, and it will be to ensure that they go in with whoever is managing that facility, because some of those facilities will be closed."
One Montego Bay resident, who frequents the arcade, told WESTERN STAR that he agrees with the initiative to remove squatters, as they are contributing to the unsightly state of the area.
"People sell things ova deh, and people live ova deh, and dem wash and cook and ova deh. All pickney born ova deh. Dung deh dutty man. Nuff rat and garbage always ova deh. People fraid fi go ova deh," he said.
"Di vendor dem a suffa. So dem leave People's Arcade and go pon di street and go inside di shoes market go sell cause dem seh people nah walk come ova deh so cause it too far. Some a di shop dem, people (squatters) lick off di lock and tek ova dem shop. Dem fi move di people dem weh live ova deh and mek di people dem get back dem shop."
Manager of the facility, O. Dave Allen, said the arcade was established by former mayor Arthur Gilchrist to facilitate 600 vendors who were selling on the street of the city.
He said homeless persons began living in the facility some four years ago, after many of the vendors vacated their shops. He said numerous efforts have been made to get housing assistance from state agencies to accommodate the squatters, but to no avail.
"I personally have given notices to them, but I could not enforce compliance because I did not have any legal status," he said.