Tourists and commuters disembarking at the Hamilton Ferry terminal often encounter homeless men and women sitting or lying around on benches. *File photo
Tourists and commuters disembarking at the Hamilton Ferry terminal often encounter homeless men and women sitting or lying around on benches. *File photo
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FRIDAY, JAN. 6: Public benches at the entrance to Hamilton Ferry Terminal have been removed to drive drunken vagrants away.

The seats, which are set around a large tree, had become a popular haunt for homeless people to sleep on.

The eyesore was often the first sight that greeted visitors to Hamilton and it was highlighted in the Bermuda Sun last year.

Now the Corporation of Hamilton have ripped up the benches in the hope the vagrants will go elsewhere.

Mayor Charles Gosling told the Sun it was a ‘temporary measure’ and the benches would be installed again before the cruise season.

He said: “The benches were designed to provide commuters and visitors to the island with a spot to sit and relax. Obviously during the winter months there are less people going back and forth on the ferries so we thought it a good time to take the benches up and perform any maintenance that needs to be done on them.

“It is a temporary measure and we are hopeful that the people who have been abusing the benches and using them to sleep on will move away from the area as a result.

“Hopefully they will change their habits.

“We plan to put the benches back again in the spring when the cruises start coming in again.”

Joanne MacPhee, executive vice president of the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce, welcomed the change but said the city needed to come to terms with the growing homeless population.

She added: “This is quite literally an issue which hits close to home for the Chamber, given our
immediate proximity to the area.

“While we applaud the city for anything they choose to do to enhance the visitor experience at this very busy junction, we must all appreciate the real issue has nothing to do with trees or chairs.

Community issue

“I know that the city is doing everything in its power, acting within the current legal system, to deal with the issue but it is not a city issue, it is a community issue.

“Bermuda has to come to grips with its growing homeless population, we cannot simply sweep these men and women under a bypass somewhere and pretend they do not exist because we can no longer see them. 

“Many I speak with like their life on the street and do not want to be institutionalized or bussed to a shelter every night.

“They want to live independently.

“Unfortunately for some that means living with no regard for themselves or anyone else. 

“Perhaps we should be considering a facility where they can safely, congregate, socialize and yes, if they want to, drink and pass out.

“A safe zone where they can feel they belong without rules, prejudice or contempt.

“I would love to think that there is a quick and easy solution to this problem and that come April, when the cruise ship season begins once again, there are cool trees and comfortable seats available for all who come to visit our island to enjoy its beauty and tranquility. 

“But sadly that is unlikely to be our reality.”