Log In

Reset Password

‘People should have right to housing because it’s the right thing to do’

First Prev 1 2 Next Last
Homeless in Bermuda: Denise Carey, the director of Home, with homeless men Howard, left, and Lorrin (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Talk to Denise Carey about homelessness and she brims with a passion — to end homelessness in Bermuda, permanently.

Ms Carey is the director of the charity Home, which helps people to get out of homelessness. It also works to prevent new cases of homelessness with the aim of “ending it for everyone”.

As such she has seen — and continues to see — those who have no roof over their heads and a bench for a bed, families sleeping in cars, people who squat in buildings that are uninhabitable, and those that move from couch to couch.

“The people who we see in town, about ten or 15, they end up becoming, really, the faces of homelessness,” Ms Carey said.

“But when we walked around, when we interviewed individuals, and we looked at all the different types of homelessness, we found that 1 per cent of our population falls within the threshold of homelessness.

“The individuals that we see outside rough sleeping actually do not represent the vast majority of individuals who are experiencing homelessness.”

Those, she said, are people who are turning 18 who have no pathway for transition because they are competing with older people for jobs and housing.

“We have seniors who have done their part within our community, and once they turn 65, there’s no pathway for them to live comfortably and affordably,” Ms Carey added.

“There are individuals who are coming out of institutions, who are coming out of the Department of Corrections, and there are no housing options for them.

“There are individuals who are living in the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital, there are persons who are living with mental health issues and receive services from the Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute, but at the point of discharge, there is no housing specific to their needs.

“We have families who are living in cars, with young people, with seniors. We have individuals who are house hopping or couch surfing who look like me, talk like me. We pass them in the community every single day, but we have absolutely no idea of the financial strain that they are under.

“We have derelict buildings with no electricity, no running water, and people are forced to live there because they cannot afford housing. And then we have people who are being evicted.

“We have people who move to Bermuda to work towards a better life. At the point their employment contract expires, because they’ve been here so long, they have no family to move home to and they remain here in Bermuda. They, too, fall within that threshold of homelessness.”

She added: “And, I would like to add, there is a myth that people become homeless because of alcohol, because of drugs. That is absolutely not correct. Alcohol and drugs contribute to how people cope with their situation of homelessness, but it is not a cause.”

Often people experiencing homelessness are unbanked. “It’s hard enough opening a bank account when you have a job, and when you are saving money, but when you do not have a housing history and employment history, it becomes increasingly difficult to be able to open a bank account.”

Ms Carey said that the trauma that people experienced before moving outside, living rough, sometimes paled in comparison with the way they are treated on a day-to-day basis.

“These guys are cursed at daily, yelled at every day, they receive comments from members of the community — ‘Just get up!’ ‘Just go get a job!’

“What we really want to do is educate the community about the harshness of living rough and that if you’re sleeping outside and living on a park bench, you have no sleep throughout the course of the evening.

“The temperature changes, it gets hot, it gets cold, it starts to rain. You have nowhere to go and use the bathroom because the public restrooms are closed throughout the evening time.

“If you are hungry, you have nowhere to go and get food; you have nowhere to store food.

“You have nowhere to secure your possessions, which may or may not get wet. You have to get up and you have to get out of the way before the community wakes up in the morning.

“So for some of these guys, they have to be up at 5am to make sure that they’re not seen, or they’re not intimidating someone. Then they have to look busy every single day.

“Being homeless is a full-time job.”

Ms Carey added: “They do not have the luxury of saying, ‘You know what, I’m not feeling well today, I’m just going to stay in bed’, because there’s no bed to stay in. They are exposed to the elements, the dampness.

“These guys do not receive regular medical attention, so they may be experiencing different physical ailments since living outside does not support their wellness.

“Throughout the course of the day, they are invited to do hustles. They are not paid at the rate other individuals are paid. They do not receive the benefits other individuals receive.

“Then after they’ve worked a long day, they have nowhere to go take a shower, they have nowhere to go and relax that is safe and dry for them to even catch themselves, so that they can prepare themselves for the next day.

“We really want to assist the community to understand that rough sleeping is not a choice; it is a decision that our community has made as it relates to not providing sufficient options, housing options, for individuals to have a sustainable pathway and the support they need.”

She said: “When I think about homelessness, I think back to when I was in high school in Bermuda, and walking from Berkeley to the bus stop.

“Individuals were living outside at that time, and then when you fast-forward, and returning from college, the same individuals were living outside.

“Our community gets increasingly frustrated because when we drive into town in the morning, we see individuals sitting off outside. When we approach the local supermarkets, there are persons panhandling.

“But what we have not done is take the time to understand the causes of homelessness, the cost of homelessness, to understand that there are human beings behind every story, and that they should have a right to housing because it’s the right thing to do.”

Categories of homelessness

According to Denise Carey, Bermuda has no legal definition of homelessness, so Home has adopted the European typology on homelessness and housing exclusion — Ethos —which looks at different issues such as the legal and social rights to have a home.

It also defines categories of homelessness:

• Rough sleeping

• People who are living outside

• Individuals who are living in emergency housing or temporary housing with no pathway for them to move out

• People about to be released from institutions

• Those living in insecure accommodation

• Those under a threat of eviction or violence

• Those living in unfit housing or extreme overcrowding

• For the Plan to End Homelessness draft, see Related Media

You must be Registered or to post comment or to vote.

Published February 12, 2024 at 7:55 am (Updated February 13, 2024 at 9:42 am)

‘People should have right to housing because it’s the right thing to do’

What you
Need to
1. For a smooth experience with our commenting system we recommend that you use Internet Explorer 10 or higher, Firefox or Chrome Browsers. Additionally please clear both your browser's cache and cookies - How do I clear my cache and cookies?
2. Please respect the use of this community forum and its users.
3. Any poster that insults, threatens or verbally abuses another member, uses defamatory language, or deliberately disrupts discussions will be banned.
4. Users who violate the Terms of Service or any commenting rules will be banned.
5. Please stay on topic. "Trolling" to incite emotional responses and disrupt conversations will be deleted.
6. To understand further what is and isn't allowed and the actions we may take, please read our Terms of Service
7. To report breaches of the Terms of Service use the flag icon