Norah Nainani, center right, with fellow church members, visit with one of their lunch guests in Frank Powell Park.
A Seventh Day Adventist from Ireland who has done volunteer work through her church around the world, Norah Nainani only has been on St. John for a month but she is trying to make a positive impact by organizing a shelter for the island’s homeless — especially those who need urgent medical care.
In early February, Nainani got involved personally when she brought one homeless man she called “Capt. Scott” to the Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center on St. John after she found him seriously ill and lying in his own urine and feces in the Frank Powell Park bandstand in Cruz Bay.
“There’s an animal shelter, yet there is no shelter for human beings,” said Nainani who estimated there are “12 homeless people living in or around Cruz Bay’s Frank Powell Park.”
“When you throw someone back on the street is that showing someone you care?” Nainani said of the social services safety net which has major holes in it on St. John. “We treat humans worse than animals.”
“They are treated as less than human,” the soft-spoken Irishwoman said of the island’s homeless. “There are people dying out there.”
In an interview with Tradewinds, Nainani related her efforts to help a man she called “Capt. Scott” whom she found in the bandstand gazebo lying in his own feces and urine with “bandages all over” and serious infections in sores on his body.
Sick Street Person in Bandstand Gazebo
“Sometimes they take him and clean him up,” Nainani said. Then he ends up “back at the gazebo” and “friends bring him more liquor.”
“The issue is you can’t put a crippled, sick man back on the street,” Nainani said. “It is is not an issue of the homeless life and drunkenness.”
After hearing reports of one especially sick homeless person living in the bandstand in the Cruz Bay’s Frank Powell Park, Nainani acted on her own and found “Capt. Scott” early last week.
“I got up at daylight,” she recalled. “This one was bad. He had been beaten up, cuts and bruises”
“I called 911 and said ‘This man needs to go to the hospital,’” Nainani related.
“The EMT said ‘I don’t think the clinic will accept him,’” Nainani said, and, sure enough, the ambulance was met by two nurses “who wouldn’t let him in.”
The staff members were hesitant to admit a man covered with urine and feces and with visible sores from infections “as well as being worried about contamination,” Nainani acknowledged.
While they waited for MKSCHC’s medical director to arrive, clinic staff members who had seen the sick man before said he was “abusing the system,” related Nainani, who agreed the man “can be rotten.”
“But, we’re talking about a human being who cannot be on the street because he’s sick.” she said. “I asked them to clean him up and dress him, and after about 20 minutes they did.”
“They did what I asked, cleaned him up, dressed him,” Nainani said.
But they were hesitant to admit him, she added.
“I requested that at the very least they needed to do blood work and a urinalysis and give him an IV to re-hydrate him,” said Nainani. “I really, really insisted.”
“They said ‘Unless there’s a medical reason, we can’t admit him,’” Nainani said.
“I’m not a nurse, but I’ve been in the field for a while,” said Nainani, who insisted “Capt.” be admitted for the night.
Clinic personnel agreed, but told Nainani: “you’re staying with him,” she said.
Nevertheless, once “Capt. Scott” was put in a bed at the clinic, Nainani went home to sleep.
“The clinic called me at 7 a.m.,” she said. “The morning nurse, Nurse Kelly, was so sweet, such a sweet lady.”
“Miss Harris (in SRMC Executive Chief Officer Bernard Wheatley’s office) was the shining star of the morning for me,” added Nainani, who said that the hospital made a special effort on her request that they admit Capt. Scott.
“Then we got word he would be admitted to St. Thomas hospital,” Nainani said.
“Thank God in that clinic there were people who cared,” Nainani added. “Somehow or other God is going to work it out.”
The “Good Samaritan” subsequently received word that someone was coming to take Capt. Scott to the states for rehabilitation — if the airline would let him on the plane in his current health condition.
“If this man can get back to the states, in my spiritual experience, there is a way this man can be rehabilitated,” Nainani said.
“People carried him from the bandstand to the Seventh Day Adventist Church the Sunday before to clean him up and dress his sores,” she added. “There are about four or five people caring for the homeless there.”
“I can’t believe that there aren’t enough people on the island” to help operate a homeless shelter, Nainani said. “The Seventh Day Adventists will feed them and clothe them. We will also get people to take care of them,”
Nainani sat down with Celia Kalousek of St. John Community foundation on February 7 to discuss creating a homeless shelter in Cruz Bay.
“We want to get a place where these people can come and stay,” Nainani said of her fledgling effort to find a shelter. “A six-bed or 12-bed facility where they can be rehabilitated. The best we can do.”
“Local people ask me ‘Who are you to be doing this?’ I am an advocate,” she continued. “We need to get these people off the streets.”
“They are people,” Nainani said. “They are precious in the sight of God.”