EMTs help out the homeless

  • Helping hands: Alex Hunter, left, and John Paul Skinner volunteered at the Government’s emergency shelter for the homeless last month (Photograph supplied)

    Helping hands: Alex Hunter, left, and John Paul Skinner volunteered at the Government’s emergency shelter for the homeless last month (Photograph supplied)


It was a call to help the homeless and Alex Hunter and John Paul Skinner raised their hands.

A month later, they’re convinced they got more out of volunteering at the Government’s emergency shelter than what they put in.

“It was really encouraging,” said Mr Skinner, who offered his skills as an emergency medical technician throughout the recent shelter-in-place when the emergency scheme ran 24/7.

“I met some real heroes who are unsung in our community. Dwayne Bean and Eugene Simons, gentlemen from [the Department of Child and] Family Services, are putting in so many hours on site; St John Ambulance crew have put in endless hours as have the MWI doctors and nurses.

“Laverne Drummond, who is officially providing security, has also been very devoted to the residents and providing much moral and emotional support.

“There are so many people who have been spending very long hours up there days and overnight, providing medical and moral support for these folks. For me, it was eye-opening.”

Forty people took advantage of the emergency shelter which opened at the Berkeley Institute at the end of March as a way of protecting the homeless from Covid-19. Logistics saw it quickly relocated to CedarBridge Academy where it continues to operate. The programme gives a bed and a free meal to anyone in need.

Mr Skinner and Mr Hunter, who were both certified as EMTs last year, responded to a call for volunteers with a medical background.

“The employees from Child and Family Services were there, but I think they felt a bit unprepared from a medical standpoint, if anything happened while they were there during the day,” Mr Hunter said. “They needed us if someone came to them with a [medical] issue and they just didn’t quite know what to do about it — whether it was a hospital issue or something that could be dealt with in-house so to speak. In a lot of ways, [we were] just there as background support.”

He and Mr Skinner travelled to Boston, Massachusetts, for practical training after they completed their studies, but haven’t done much with their EMT certification since they returned home.

“We haven’t been practising locally as both us of have other jobs,” said Mr Hunter, who works at Bios. “I’ve been a first response instructor for a long time now and I really enjoy it. [Becoming an EMT] was kind of a natural step and I thought I could [volunteer], maybe with St John Ambulance.”

Mr Skinner runs Waterstart, a programme that exposes young people to Bermuda’s marine environment through such activities as scuba diving, boating, snorkelling and kayaking. Becoming an EMT was the first step on his way to being certified as an emergency first response instructor.

Although happy to be able to finally put their skills to work, what they did was “minor” compared with the efforts of everyone else involved in the programme, the pair said.

“We were each there for a couple hours each day,” said Mr Hunter. “We didn’t have to stay there every night.

“These guys were far out of their comfort zone, away from their families and spending 7am to 7pm there — really super-long shifts. I think it’s a lot to ask and the fact that they stepped up and did it was ... to me it was pretty amazing. And they’re still doing it.”

The experience gave Mr Skinner a better understanding of Bermuda’s homeless population. “Generally, people on the street tend to be looked down upon,” he said. “Sometimes it’s people who are just down on their luck, who’ve had an accident or who have a physical disability or another health issue; some of them just don’t have the ability to make enough money to get a place to stay.

“We heard some real, heart-wrenching stories from people who have really, really appreciated having meals and a bed and a roof over their heads. A lot of them, they don’t really know where they’re going next.

“It was great to see the community rally around folks, there’s a lot of wonderful people working to support them but for some folks, it’s not enough.”

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Published May 14, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated May 14, 2020 at 7:52 am)

EMTs help out the homeless

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