“Please help us. We have nowhere to go.”
That was the cry of several teens who were left homeless after being put out of the Cyril Ross Nursery in Tunapuna. The orphans are begging for a transition home to call their own.
The nursery, which houses orphans with HIV/AIDS, has again come under fire for ill-treating its residents. This time the children are claiming to be put out with no food, money or anywhere to go.
Many of them were evicted before age 18.
“According to the Children’s Act, we have an obligation to them until age 18,” said Rudolph Boneo, president of the Society of St Vincent de Paul, which runs the Cyril Ross Nursery.
“But it’s all discretionary. They know they have to leave at 18 so wherever they go next is up to them. Some go and live with their relatives and some go on their own,” he added.
Last November, the Express reported on allegations made against the home by children and a past employee.
They stated that the “mommies”, as the caretakers are commonly referred to, often abused the children both physically and verbally and stole items donated to the home.
It was also alleged that the children do not receive proper meals, which are needed before they can take their medication, and they are often banned from going outside to play.
When the Express first contacted Boneo last year, he claimed all of these were “false accusations made by a former employee”.
However, his stance on the treatment of children at the Nursery has drastically changed.
“Only because we are Catholics we ain’t pelt them on the road yet,” he said.
When asked about provisions made for children when they are 18, Boneo added: “How much transition you go transition them. Ent when you turn 18 you are big man and woman so they could take care of themselves.”
The former residents, most of whom are ages 18 to 20, have all claimed that when they are put out they are left to sleep on the streets because they have no family and because of their illness it is difficult to acquire jobs.
One 18-year-old past resident said: “I leave since I was 16. I was staying at the Riverside Car Park (a shelter for homeless people in Port of Spain) but there is really filthy. They have rats and it smells like pee.”
Another former resident said: “You have no privacy, You have to change in front of everyone. When you wake up in the morning all your things gone because someone stole it.”
They also said that persons would threaten and bully them into doing illicit activities.
And because they feared that their lives were at risk, they had to find somewhere else to go, which led to them sleeping in parks and on the streets.
They said that many other orphans “end up living a life of crime, they all over the place and some end up dead”.
When asked about life at Cyril Ross, the orphans all claimed the same thing: “They only care about the money, not us.”
They also alleged that the caretakers allow a man, who was once a resident of the nursery, into the home and when he visits he pays special attention to a 14-year-old boy.
They claim that he makes the boy sit on his lap and touches him inappropriately.
One past employee said: “The mommies are right there, they let him in but they don’t pay attention to what the children doing.
“They are not registered nurses or anything. They call them caretakers but they don’t have any certificates.”
The orphans who have left also said when they visit the home and ask for a meal, they are denied. One girl said: “When I go to ask for something to eat, they don’t even take me on. I can’t even come on the compound now.”
One boy told the Express he has not been able to receive any medication in more than a week because he has gone days without eating and has no money to travel to Port of Spain General Hospital to receive medication.
The former employee, who continues to assist the orphans, said: “We are begging for any kind of assistance. It doesn’t have to be fancy, it could be an old house. We’re willing to clean it up and fix it for ourselves. We just want some place safe for the children to sleep at night.
“Despite what Mr Boneo saying, the only reason I’m speaking out for the children who are at the home and the orphans who are now homeless is because I’ve seen it all with my own eyes.
“Some of the other staff members want to speak out as well but they are afraid they’ll lose their jobs too.
"Because of their illness, we have to protect their identities, so that’s why we are speaking for them. I don’t have any grudges against the president, I just want the relevant authorities to step in because this is totally unfair to these children. They already have so much to deal with health-wise, why would people continue to ill-treat them. It’s not right, this has to stop.”
The orphans claim the mismanagement and abuse by staff at the Cyril Ross Nursery has caused them to become depressed, some wanting to take their own lives and others left feeling hopeless with nowhere and no one to turn to.
But they say life after leaving the nursery is even worse as their health is now in jeopardy.
With no food, shelter, medication or families, these orphans are pleading to Roman Catholic Archbishop Jason Gordon, as well as Minister of Gender and Youth Affairs Ayanna Webster-Roy and even the Prime Minister to intervene and assist,
When the Express contacted Webster-Roy, she said: “The matter is under investigation by the Children’s Authority.”
She also urged that citizens who witness any form of child abuse to immediately report it to the Children’s Authority.
Attempts to contact Archbishop Gordon were futile.