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Face of homelessness Eugene ‘Jinx’ Darrell dies

Eugene “Jinx” Darrell, known fondly to many from the streets of Hamilton (File photograph)

A senior who over the decades became the face of homelessness for many in Bermuda has been mourned by the community along with those who care for the island’s unsheltered.

Eugene Darrell, who retained his childhood nickname of Jinx, hailed from the Cedar Hill neighbourhood in Warwick but spent well over half his life sleeping rough.

A portrait of the 65-year-old emerged through social media tributes to Mr Darrell from members of the public.

Mr Darrell was candid about his early troubles with drug addiction, and those who recalled him fondly were also blunt about his often belligerent requests for money about the streets of Hamilton in earlier years.

Many also wrote of his sense of humour and underlying gentle nature, and said he had found sobriety in recent years.

Martha Dismont, a veteran charitable worker, said last night: “I’m so sorry that my friend is not around.”

She described Mr Darrell’s candour at his struggles with alcohol and said: “Drinking is something that individuals do to an excessive level because of something that’s happened.”

Ms Dismont said she had once spoken with Mr Darrell about his aggression in asking for money, telling him: “Your job is to take care of yourself – you can’t demand of people.”

But she said Mr Darrell appeared to have become “more resolved” – and highlighted the work of the Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute in caring for him.

“What began to help, and what is so critical, is he was able to go to MWI, where they would take care of him.

“He could always go up there, and that gave him a sense of not being out there by himself.”

The former head of Family Centre, who now works at Catalyst Consulting in supporting charities and looking into the roots of Bermuda’s social ailments, said she had gone to Mr Darrell as a sounding board for a recent study of the island’s homeless.

“Eugene was a bit of my barometer of how people would respond when we attempted to engage them,” she said.

Mr Darrell’s appearances in Magistrates’ Court for begging and occasional break-ins, with stints in jail, punctuate The Royal Gazette’s court coverage until about a decade ago.

But the articles came with complaints from the courts as well as advocates for the homeless and those struggling with addiction.

A 2006 case in the Supreme Court noted Mr Darrell’s convictions going back until 1975, with 46 in the previous decade – ten for breaking and entering.

The late Richard Ground, Chief Justice of the day, lamented the lack of treatment options available.

“There’s no secure mental institution separate from prison at which I can remand Mr Darrell for any length of time,” he said.

Rick Woolridge, Mr Darrell’s lawyer at the hearing, told the court that jail was the only option “this progressive society” had offered him.

After the case he said: “At the moment, there’s Westgate or the Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute. That can’t be right.”

Court reports end in 2011, when the then senior magistrate, Archibald Warner, refused to jail Mr Darrell on a charge of being drunk and incapable – granting him an absolute discharge and freeing him.

Ms Dismont said her friend had seemed more sober in recent years than in the past.

But she said she knew little in-depth, including what family remained.

She praised the work of the charity Home in working with the unsheltered – but said Mr Darrell represented one of the “extremes” that Bermuda would have to address.

“I think, and have thought for a long time, that Bermuda has a long way to go to get to the root causes and have an impact with our vulnerable people,” she said.

“We have always been behind in terms of what we should be doing specifically for people in trouble.”

Ms Dismont said it was important for people in the community to appreciate that seemingly random bursts of anger from the homeless was “not directed at us”.

“That’s why I think, after a number of years, Eugene stopped because he resolved himself.

“He knew the consequences and became a more sober person in the sense of resolving his situation.”

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Published February 09, 2023 at 8:12 am (Updated February 09, 2023 at 9:52 pm)

Face of homelessness Eugene ‘Jinx’ Darrell dies

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