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Spare a thought for those less fortunate

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As we dash around buying last-minute gifts, prepping for parties and getting into the festive spirit, spare a thought for those less blessed this Christmas.

For many of Bermuda's homeless, Christmas Day is a day like any other — although, perhaps, it might feel a little lonelier.

The Royal Gazette spoke to members of Bermuda's homeless community to find out what their Christmas experience will be like and whether there was anything they wished for.

Frederick “Henry” McCallan, who is in his 70s, will spend Christmas Day sitting in his wheelchair outside the public bathrooms on Front Street.

“I don't go around anybody's house, I don't need anything. I am independent,” he said. “But I am crippled — I can't walk. I've had three operations — I broke my hip and then had an operation on my spine and then my foot. I have been in bad pain again for two days. I just need some Tylenol.”

Mr McCallan spent many years as a fisherman and says his family have Bermuda roots stretching back to the 1700s.

Up until about a year ago, Mr McCallan had been staying at the Sylvia Richardson care facility in St George's but said he could not afford to continue living there. He now sleeps rough.

“If I'm not here, I am at Barr's Bay Park. I like this spot because I meet people I know,” he said.

On his plans for tomorrow, Mr McCallan said: “Christmas is like any other day for me. I'm not expecting anything.”

Pushed on whether there is anything he needs, he replied: “A room where I can take care of my own business and live by myself. Just a room, a hotplate and some bathroom facilities — a bucket would do.

“People I know bring me food every now and again. I used to give fish away for free to families and they still remember that.”

Mr McCallan has children but says he does not know where they are.

As he spoke another familiar face greeted Mr McCallan and he responded, with cheer in his eyes, “Are you ready for Santa Claus?”

Cavon “Boogie” Trott is another of Bermuda's homeless characters who spends time on Front Street.

Mr Trott may appear to be one of the lucky ones as he will spend Christmas in a house full of family members including his elderly parents.

He will also be celebrating his 59th birthday with his mother on Boxing Day. “Family is very important to me,” he said.

But Mr Trott's journey has not been easy — aside from winding up on the streets, he has battled with cocaine addiction. “I've been off the drugs for four years now I just drink beer. I did it on my own because I was just tired. I had to give it up.”

Asked whether he wished for anything this Christmas, he said: “What I look forward to is being able to wake up and take another breath...

“I do need a place to stay but, you know how that goes.”

The Government of Bermuda has talked of creating a new homeless facility for many years and recently donated the Bishop Spencer building to The Salvation Army. However, the facility needs money that the charity does not have to adapt to residences.

The City of Hamilton has been asking governments for six years to find a minister to champion the issue of homelessness and at one point a committee was formed. To date there is no plan on the table.

Yesterday the Government said it still supported proposals for a facility.

“The Government remains committed to this project and are in continuing dialogue with the Salvation Army,” a spokesman said.

The late Derrick Phipps, a lawyer who fell to addiction and ended up living on the streets, knew that homelessness in Bermuda was not a one size fits all issue. He was part of the homeless committee and told this newspaper a few months before his death in September: “What we attempted to do and what we can finish doing, is to develop a comprehensive facility where we can take into account all the issues, including medical issues, substance-abuse and mental-health issues that come with homelessness.”

Albuoy's Point is popular spot for Bermuda's homeless who gather against the backdrops of sparkling yachts and harbour view houses. Gerald Tucker, 75, spends his time there sitting with friends and maybe sharing a few beers. He used to make a living sweeping the streets but ended up on the streets.

Part of his problem was alcohol which, after years of abuse, took its toll. He ended up taking residence at the Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute in the facility for people with mental challenges.

Asked what he will do this Christmas, Mr Tucker said: “Hang around Albuoy's with some friends.”

While there are family members he would like to see more of, including a son, he did say there is not much he needed in life.

“Anything to make life easier. But I am happy.”

Joining family: Cavon “Boogie” Trott may appear to be one of the lucky ones - he will spend Christmas with family, including his elderly parents (Photograph by Sarah Lagan)
Sleeping rough: Frederick 'Henry' McCallan says he will spend Christmas Day in his wheelchair outside the public bathrooms on Front Street (Photograph by Sarah Lagan)
On the streets: Gerald Tucker, 75, will spend Christmas with friends at Albuoy's Point (Photograph by Sarah Lagan)

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Published December 24, 2015 at 8:00 am (Updated December 24, 2015 at 8:24 am)

Spare a thought for those less fortunate

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