I GUESS it’s a case of “better late than never.”
I’m referring to Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella who recently tasked City Administrator Floro Casas Jr. to secure the homeless.
I don’t know about you, but “they” have always been there. They were already there before the government imposed lockdowns to try and contain the spread of the novel coronavirus disease pandemic at the end of March.
In fact, I’ve been writing about their plight over the years.
Sometime in July, I wrote about how their numbers had grown and even pointed out the streets where they could be found.
They had taken over both sidewalks of R.R. Landon St. near Osmeña Blvd. and the sidewalk behind the Cebu Normal University on Pelaez St. At night, they’d show up and sleep on the sidewalk across the main campus of the University of San Carlos (USC) on P. del Rosario St.
I would know because I pass these streets on my way to the office and back every day. On foot.
When authorities started to apprehend residents for leaving their homes without a quarantine pass or for defying the curfew, I asked why they were turning a blind to the homeless whose ranks had swelled since the health crisis began.
When the Special Action Force arrived in the city to help implement quarantine measures, I wrote about witnessing a truck carrying several members of the elite police unit stop in front of the sidewalk across the USC campus. I initially thought they’d herd the sleeping masses like cattle and take them somewhere else but instead, I saw them handing out food.
My point is, homelessness is not new. But I also know that the City Government has had its hands full trying to deal with the pandemic, especially when Cebu City became the “epicenter” of Covid-19 in the country.
I’m just happy its hands are no longer tied so it can finally address the problem.
The mayor believes their presence is due to the fact that Christmas is right around the corner and they’re here to take advantage of the people’s tendency to be generous at this time of the year.
He may be right. After all, many of them do show up around September, or the start of the “Ber” months, which usher in the beginning of the Yuletide season in the country. But that may not be the case this year.
Their numbers are unusually high. And I’m talking about whole families camped out on the streets. Traditional holiday beggars do not sleep in the open. At least, the ones I’ve encountered over the years.
I earlier suggested that these are families who were evicted from their homes because they could no longer afford to pay rent after losing their jobs. I thought that made more sense given the situation.
But again, I am glad that the City has finally noticed them.