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Shantytown residents spared from fire get government reprieve

Those residents whose homes were not destroyed by a recent fire in a Haitian village on Alan Drive have won themselves another reprieve, as the government has decided that the shacks will not be destroyed at this time.

“We did not take down the houses that were not destroyed by fire because it would have created another problem for the government to find housing for those persons. And so the government has said for now those persons who live in those houses that have not been destroyed, for the moment the ministry will not demolish them,”Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Housing Brensil Rolle said yesterday.

“Once the land is turned over to the Ministry of Housing, the ministry will then make a determination as to whether or not the persons who are there will qualify for ownership. But the land will be available for Bahamians, qualified persons who can then purchase a service lot for low and middle income housing,”he explained.

Fire destroyed over 100 houses in the village on December 26. There were no deaths. Reportedly the area, which has become known as Mackey Yard over the years, was home to more than 200 Haitians and Bahamians. About 20 to 25 homes were left standing after the blaze.

Last week Director of Immigration Jack Thompson disclosed that the residents of the village who may be in The Bahamas illegally will not be picked up and deported at this time, due to their current circumstances.

Yesterday Rolle said the Bahamas Electricity Corporation had already taken down the utility pole that was said to be in the center of the village.

“Once the Ministry of Works has cleared the land, it will be fenced and then a determination would be made on the extent to which the Ministry of Housing could redesign the property so that it becomes available to Bahamians once cleared and sanitized,”Rolle explained.

In the meantime, residents are reportedly staying at the homes of family members living in another Haitian shantytown close to the one impacted by the fire, in various shelters or are being assisted by the Queen of Peace Church on Faith Avenue.

Church officials said yesterday they have already assisted 145 individuals, including 64

children and 25 babies.

“The problem is some of them are illegal. I can’t defend illegal people in the country. For those who have status I tried to see how I can help them but for the others that is difficult,”the church’s pastor toldThe Nassau Guardian.

For 29-year-old Youlanda Pierre the fire and the destruction of her home has brought serious challenges.

The mother of four children, whose ages are one, four, seven and 12, said she is now forced to live in a small cramped home on Faith Avenue with other family members, including her sisters, brothers and both her parents.

“It has been very hard to cope with everything but we get by with the help of other people. But thank God for life, that is all I can say because if that fire had started in the night we would have had it worst, even death, because people had three and four children inside the houses,” Pierre said.

She said as soon as she is able to send her children back to school at Garvin Tynes and Carmichael Road Primary, she would start looking for a job.

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