Opinion

Big business could solve homelessness in a quarter

  • Major Frank Pittman from the Salvation Army (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

Walking the streets of Hamilton at lunchtime, past the makeshift, sidewalk shanty town-like homes of Bermuda’s homeless that are sadly multiplying over time, I have a dream ...

Walking past the shameless state of the existing shelter for the homeless off Parsons Road, having spent hundreds of dollars on takeout dinner on Friday evenings for my family, I have a dream ...

For almost three years, we have read in The Royal Gazette that the Salvation Army has a dream: to transform the Bishop Spencer School building into a new emergency shelter complex to help the homeless. Major Frank Pittman has told your paper that refitting the building into a fully equipped centre for Bermuda’s homeless would cost $4 million if the “miraculous funds” became available. Such funds would give us:

“A new facility that would fulfil the vision of a ‘pathway to hope’, with transitional housing, life-skills training and basic health services. It would have at least 55 emergency beds and 12 individual one-room transitional apartments for those without homes to help them eventually move back into the community.” (Royal Gazette, April 22, 2017)

Miraculous funds ... to whom can we turn?

The Bermuda Government is bereft of funds in its laudable aim to balance our budget and the Corporation of Hamilton is chasing the missing millions ...

I then keep reading the newspaper and find the answer in the following passages that speak to the amazing success of corporate Bermuda over the past couple of years:

“Chubb’s annual profit topped $4 billion for 2016, as the global insurer declared fourth-quarter earnings that surpassed analysts’ expectations ...” (January 31, 2017)

“Global insurer and reinsurer XL Catlin last night posted profits of $152.8 million for the first quarter of the year ... The figure is nearly $140 million up on the same period last year ...” (April 27, 2017)

“White Mountains Insurance Group ... made a profit of $413 million for the year, up from $298 million in 2015 ... We still have about $1.8 billion in undeployed capital ...” (February 7, 2017)

“Everest Re Group Ltd last night reported fourth-quarter net income of $373.6 million and comfortably surpassed analysts’ expectations ... The firm posted revenue of $1.61 billion in the period ...” (February 7, 2017)

“Qatar Insurance company during the first nine months of this year ... boosting its profit ... to $195 million ... QIC’s gross written premiums for the period were $2.12 billion ...” (October 25, 2016)

“Reinsurance firm PartnerRe ... Net income for the quarter totalled $240.3 million ...” (October 27, 2016)

“RenaissanceRe Holdings Ltd almost doubled its third-quarter profit to $146.8 million ...” (November 2, 2016)

“Axis Capital Holdings Ltd ... Full-year net income for the Bermudian insurer and reinsurer was $465 million for 2016, compared to $602 million the year before ...” (February 1, 2017)

“Island-based Validus Holdings has splashed out $127.5 million to buy up a US specialist crop insurer ...” (January 31, 2017)

“HSBC Bank Bermuda Ltd booked net profits of $117 million last year — up more than a third on 2015 ...” (February 24, 2016)

“Bank of Butterfield has reported profits of $115.9 million for last year — up $38.2 million on the $77.7 million recorded the year before ... core earnings for the year were $138.6 million ...” (February 14, 2017)

“Third Point Reinsurance Ltd ... posted third-quarter net income of $72.1 million as the value of its investments gained. The profit compared to a net loss of $195.7 million in the third quarter of 2015 ...” (November 4, 2016)

“Aspen Insurance Holdings Ltd ... The company wrote more business, with gross written premiums increasing by 6 per cent to $763.5 million in the third quarter of 2016 compared with $720.5 million in the same period last year ...” (October 27, 2016)

“Allied World Assurance Company has reported third-quarter net income of $68.6 million.” ... The insurance company posted revenue of $636.5 million in the period ...” (November 1, 2016)

“Argo Group International Holdings has announced net income of $55.2 million for the third quarter ... Gross written premiums rose 10.2 per cent to $585.4 million ...” (November 1, 2016)

“Insurer and reinsurer Lancashire yesterday posted pre-tax profits of $42.9 million. Gross premiums written dropped ... to $108.2 million quarter on quarter between last year and this ...” (November 4, 2016)

“Maiden Holdings Ltd ... Gross premiums written for the quarter went up 12.5 per cent to $706.9 million, compared to the $628.5 million recorded in the same period last year ...” (November 2, 2016)

“Insurer BF&M Ltd ... equity attributable to shareholders at September 20, 2016 was $271 million, while general fund assets totalled $1.1 billion, of which $118.9 million was held in cash and cash equivalents.” (December 5, 2016)

“Enstar’s profits climb more than 20 per cent ... The company posted net income of $54.7 million, or $2.80 per share, compared to $45.5 million ...” (May 9, 2017)

“Ascendant raises dividend 50 per cent as Belco profits surge ... The Company earned $24.3 million according to figures released ... by its parent company Ascendant Group Ltd ...” (May 11, 2017)

The list of successes is much longer, of course, as there are the many private companies that do not report their profits, including all the big accounting and law firms.

My dream continues. I have a dream ... that these amazing corporate dream teams who make our island a success on the world stage walk past the same makeshift shelters on their way back from lunch, hear the plight of our poorest, hear the plea for miraculous funds from one of our kindest charities on the island, and take concerted action.

Recognising the substantial and positive contributions these companies already make to charitable causes in Bermuda, if we can find only 40 of these companies to each pledge at least $100,000 on the basis that the others pledge, too, we can easily find the $4 million to help those who need it most.

The poverty-stricken areas of our City could disappear and our homeless friends will be showered and will turn over on their mattresses at night.

We can call the new homeless facility The Bermuda Business Care Centre. We can post the names of the donor companies on the front of the building as a huge thank-you from the people of Bermuda for ever. A coming-together of opposite worlds in a way that our friend, Shawn Crockwell, begged us to make happen. Can someone hear this plea and help to take this forward? I will help. And my little law firm will contribute something.

•Juliana Snelling is a director of Canterbury Law, 1993 Rhodes Scholar, and a friend and one-time mentor to the late Shawn Crockwell