Welfare offers landlords three months’ rent upfront

The People Empowerment and Elder Affairs will pay three months’ upfront in an attempt to facilitate landlords renting to welfare recipients.

Minister of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs, Kirk Humphrey, was speaking in the House of Assembly during yesterday’s debate of the Appropriation Bill 2024 when he stated that many landlords across Barbados were unwilling to house vulnerable members of society.

“The reality is, and internally we don’t talk about it, there are many people who just do not wish to rent to welfare clients or clients who find themselves before a social service agency. It would be a case where people would say ‘Are you from the Welfare Department?’ ‘Do you have children?’ I’m not renting you my house. It just became very difficult.”

Humphrey, who has been in that Ministry of People Empowerment since 2002, built on that “The position of the Government now is that if persons are willing to rent to us, we are prepared to offer three months’ rent up front to allow that person to have comfort of knowing that the monies will be there up front and to ensure that monthly thereafter that person will be receiving their rent on time. The Ministry is very serious about finding new landlords who are willing to enter into this relationship, that is why we ran the advertisement so that we could encourage people to come forward.”

Coordinator of the Poverty Alleviation and Reduction Programme Andrew Pollard joined in on the debate. “We recognised that over the years persons have been more or less averse to working with the Welfare Department in terms of rent and the particular ways in which persons can access rent through the Welfare Department. Overall, there has been the challenge that persons have had the impression that the Government does not pay.”

Pollard continued: “What we have decided we would do is we would look for the house which immediately removes a burden from the potential beneficiary, but not only that, we would offer to pay the utilities so they would be included in the rent people will pay. Internally we feel that the system will work well in terms of persons accessing rent houses. We are doing it now under the Poverty Alleviation and Reduction Programme and to a large extent we would say it has been successful.”

Humphrey, the Member of Parliament for St Michael South, said the Ministry has now worked toward creating a Family Services Authority which would do away with the title of welfare and its connotations but still carry out the duties associated with it. It also led to the commissioning of the Resilience and Reintegration Unit.

“The Unit’s sole purpose is to be able to respond to those shocks and help people find housing where there have been fires, unexpected disasters like Hurricane Elsa, ashfall and anything else that may happen,” he explained. “We created a department that allows us to respond to those things and it is supposed to be a 24-hour response system. It also addresses for the first time in Government the issues of homelessness and to be able to say we’ve offered a serious response.”

“We have a social policy coming on homelessness, which will soon be followed by legislation as well, and this Unit will allow us to respond effectively to the issues that are affecting this country.”

The Resilience and Reintegration Unit, which will bring together three key tenets of the Ministry of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs will come into effect from April 1. The staff of the Poverty Alleviation Relief Programme will make up the members working in this new department.

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