Men living under bridge treated to clothes, food, but life still rough

People know them as the men who live under the St Mary bridge. And for Daniel Stewart and Nicholas Rowe they would love to have that situation changed quickly.

The uncomfortable surroundings in which they sleep at night – out in the cold air, at the mercy of mosquitoes who proliferate in the Llanrumney stream, a tributary of the Pagee River and watched by goats by day – has made them tougher. But they will tell you that they want much better out of life.

Stewart, from nearby Heywood Hall, and Rowe, originally from Spanish Town, were feted on Thursday by their friend and confidante Wyatt Williams, soon after his period of quarantine ended after his return from the United States where the Icons of Annotto Bay charity group founder and president resides.

They got clothes, sanitary supplies, including soap, and rushed almost immediately, upon receipt of the items, to a watery celebration almost like a baptism, in a shallow section of the river.

Washed off, dried, and changed, the men were taken on a 10-minute drive to Port Maria where they were treated to more items of clothing and footwear at Sinclair’s Bargain Centre, courtesy of Rock River, St Mary-born, Williams. They next visited a barber shop to shave their beards, though keeping their locks, and received food at the relatively new Portland Jerk Centre in the town.

There was joyful laughter all round. But one thing that rested on the minds of the few in attendance was: Can the men get somewhere comfortable to reside?

“These men deserve better,” said Williams, a former member of the Jamaica Constabulary Force who is widely known as Spur.

“I wish I had land somewhere near here that I could be part of a project to build a house for them. Can the parish council do something for them? Can the Government do something for them? Is there anyone in the private sector who could come to the rescue of these men and even donate a piece of land to put up a structure for them?” he asked.

Soon, it was time to burst the men’s bubble. With nowhere else to go but back under the bridge, Stewart and Rowe, boxed lunches in hand, slipped over the short side of the lengthy wall, as the temporary higher-than-normal life ended.

“This is the most painful part for me,” Williams said. “It’s all good to take them to buy clothes, groom them, and get food for them, but every time I come to Jamaica and visit them, it is difficult for me to walk away and leave them under that bridge. I am appealing to people who can assist them, to do so. We can all do a little, so that in the end it adds up to big things for them.”

Williams said that he felt even more concerned about the health of the men, as they did not seem to be as strong as when he last saw them in January of this year.

“It would be good if a doctor can see them, especially Nicholas, who looks weaker now. If doctors out there can volunteer their services to see what is happening in the men’s lives that would be appreciated. I know that sometimes, even for an entire day, they do not eat anything, and as nutrition is so important, that could be one of the reasons why it seems their health is deteriorating,” Williams said.

Stewart, the more vocal of the two, also said that any further assistance that could be offered to him and his friend would be greatly appreciated. “We would really love a little place to live in, and get some food more often,” he said. “We glad fi di food and di clothes wa we get today though.”

As the two went back to their bases, Rowe muttered: “We caa keep on dem new clothes ya you nuh, because we caa mek dem get dirty.”

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