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‘I spend my days outside, basically on the streets’

About 30 meals are given away to homeless people by staff at the charity Home every day — and they are gone in minutes.

The recipients often include Emberly (not her real name), who takes a meal that must last her the day.

Although she has a place to live, Emberly’s circumstances meet one of the definitions of homelessness: people living in unfit housing because, she said, her studio was flooded twice and too mouldy to stay in for long.

As a result, the 64-year-old, who is a college-educated beautician, spends most of her time on the streets, struggling to survive on the income she receives from financial assistance.

When she was a teenager, Emberly went to school in the United States and qualified as a beautician — something she did to appease her mother because she really wanted to be a health fitness teacher.

She married while in the US and had three children, who still live there; she has parted ways with her husband.

Owing to problems with her knees, Emberly can no longer work because standing up as a beautician is too painful. She needs a knee replacement, but cannot afford to have an operation.

She is unemployed, alone and struggling to get by on $300 to $400 a week.

Emberly said: “I have to budget the little that I have.

“I spend $100 every week on groceries. The money that I get … you know, going into the supermarket and buying something, you just come out with one bag.”

She added: “Because I have a disability with my knee, I can't walk too far. Sometimes I can’t cook because I’m in pain.

“The best place I know is Home, to go there and get a meal and then eat some of it, and leave the rest for later.”

The Royal Gazette, in conjunction with stakeholders including Home, has launched its Ending Homelessness campaign to remind the community that people affected by homelessness matter.

Home, and others, want to end homelessness. So do we. We want your support. We want you to change your perception of members of the unsheltered population. We want you to help lobby for simple changes. We want you to show compassion.

Homeless people want to work so that they can be self-sufficient. They did not choose to be homeless and in many cases their plight was brought about by systemic failings in this country.

For the past five years, Emberly has lived in a small studio “but it’s been horrible for me”. It flooded twice and she said: “I’m stuck in this place with mould that makes me feel sick sometimes.

“I don’t know where to go to complain to get things done for myself. So it’s like I’m homeless, really. I just sleep there.

“I spend my days outside, I don’t want to stay on the streets, but basically on the streets. I spend my days on the street and sit outside until I get real tired.”

When asked if she thought her life would get better, she added: “No, I’m not expecting it to get better. But by the grace of God, I’m trying to stay optimistic, but the way Bermuda’s going, I might just have to go back to America to live because I can’t afford it here.”

What stops her is her knee which, she said, swells up in the cold.

In 2010, the Bermuda Census identified 82 people experiencing homelessness. By 2016, that number had risen to 138.

According to Home, the Department of Statistics developed those estimates based on counting rough sleepers and the population housed in the Salvation Army emergency shelter.

As of December 31, 2023, Home recorded Bermuda’s homeless population as 811.

She is horrified by what she sees happening in Bermuda. “All this horrible stuff that’s happening now is just killing my heart.

“I never thought that the police would carry guns and stuff like that. I never thought people would just go around and stab someone or shoot them.

“I know it is all over the world. But I never expected it in Bermuda. It’s supposed to be paradise.”

About her own circumstances, Emberly said: “I don’t complain too much.

“It is a struggle for me, but I don't complain because there are millions of people worse off.”

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Published June 10, 2024 at 7:56 am (Updated June 10, 2024 at 7:56 am)

‘I spend my days outside, basically on the streets’

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