Former prison HQ on Happy Valley Road, Pembroke. *Photo by Kageaki Smith
Former prison HQ on Happy Valley Road, Pembroke. *Photo by Kageaki Smith

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 28: The former HQ of the prison service could be turned into a shelter for Bermuda’s growing homeless population.

The idea is just one being considered by Government Estates and Information Services Minister Michael Scott, who is looking at ways of turning empty Government-owned buildings into assets to the community.

Mr Scott said that the building, in Pembroke’s Happy Valley Road, a historic former cottage hospital, could be adapted to help the homeless — an idea that has been welcomed by the Salvation Army.

Also, the former Hamilton police station, which has been out of use for a year, is being looked at for redevelopment into an office block.

The Minister is also looking at remedial work to preserve and protect the crumbling terracotta façade of the iconic Sessions House building, the home of the House of Assembly and the Supreme Court.

Mr Scott also wants to see more modest properties on the Government’s property portfolio rescued, restored and turned over for use as family homes or community resources.

Mr Scott said that renewal projects would also provide work for Bermudians and training opportunities for apprentice craftsmen employed at his Ministry’s Prospect Depot, as well as raise much-needed revenue.

‘Homeless could be housed in former Prison HQ’, says Scott

The former HQ of the prison service could be turned into a shelter for the homeless.

The building, in Pembroke’s Happy Valley Road, was abandoned by Prisons Commissioner Edward Lamb and his team earlier this year when they moved to Dockyard.

But Michael Scott, Minister for Government Estates and Information Services, said the offices, once a cottage hospital, could be used to provide much-needed accommodation for those most in need.

Mr Scott said: “It might make an ideal candidate for a homeless shelter — it is a very historic building and it’s huge.

“As a former hospital, it might be a good candidate for transition to a modern use.”

Mr Scott added he had been in talks with Public Works Minister Michael Weeks over the future use of the building.

He said: “We have assets and budget money which can be deployed in terms of community development.”

The proposal was welcomed by Major Shawn Critch of the Salvation Army, which runs a shelter in Hamilton and works to support homeless people on the streets.

A total of 82 people were listed as homeless in the 2010 census, more than double the figure of the previous census in 2000 – but Major Critch warned that the real figure was probably much higher.

Major Critch said figures depended on the definition of homeless — with those who have some form of shelter, although no permanent home, and those who are living on the streets.

He said: “If you combine the unsheltered homeless with people who are living in some form of shelter, you are looking at a much higher figure.”

Major Critch added a survey done by the Salvation Army several years ago suggested there could be as many as 300 people on the island with no permanent home of their own.

He said the current Salvation Army shelter, run from Government-owned premises, accommodated around 45-50 people most nights.

Major Critch added: “We are pretty much near capacity most nights — we are still dealing with the realities of recession and the demands that is placing on our services.

“I would be surprised if anything has changed in the past few years or if there has been a positive shift in the numbers.”

Major Critch said: “We’ve not had any requests from Government, but I would certainly be more than open to having that conversation with the appropriate Government department.

“Potentially, the former prisons headquarters would be very useful, depending on the structure of the building and on how it could be renovated to meet the needs of our programme.