Tuesday, Jan 28, 2020
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The plight of Over-the-Hill

When one hears or thinks of Over the Hill many negative connotations may come to one’s mind, however some of these preconceived notions are truly false about this famed area of New Providence. The area has an incredibly rich and vibrant history, with some of our nation’s leaders calling it home, including the likes of Sir Lynden Pindling, Dr. Cleveland Eneas, Sir Orville Turnquest, Paul Adderley and the current prime minister, Dr. Hubert Minnis. Clearly, Over the Hill has raised some of our country’s most precious gems.

Sadly the area hasn’t been maintained, with some of the original generations passing away, in addition to the younger generation opting to move out of the neighborhood to more affluent areas, never to return home.

Whenever most of us drive through these areas either taking shortcuts heading out of town or into the city, weaving through the various corners, we are sometimes oblivious to the surroundings, but we get an eyeful when the traffic is backed up. Some yards are filled with derelict vehicles, houses are boarded up and people old and young sit on porches.

Somewhere nestled among these sad surroundings you will spot a jewel of a home in the midst, painted and well maintained. It’s a pity that the whole area isn’t well maintained.

The activist Rev. C.B. Moss, who has become the voice of Bains Town and Grants Town, has put forth an amazing effort in bringing awareness and reminding us of the proud history of these neighborhoods through such channels as his television and radio show. Moss is relentless in his quest to inspire change and empowerment for the residents of this community. On many occasions, he challenges his audience to trivia which one would find interesting. Both Bains Town and Grants Town have been the nuclei of many grass roots organizations which spurred progressive change throughout our country. It’s a shame that areas of such importance appear to be spiralling into decay and absolute ruin.

I’m no stranger to these areas; as a youngster I lived through Fort Fincastle and Augusta Street, both areas on the very low end of the socioeconomic scale. Although my family was poor, I grew up with a deep appreciation of the plight many Bahamians still face today. I recall having to haul water from the nearest pump to cook and bathe. Another stark memory as a child was the lack of plumbing and the use of outdoor toilets. I remember the many water fights we had as boys at the water pump located on the top of the Queen’s Staircase. In all seriousness, here we are, almost 60 plus years later, and some Bahamians are still using outhouses. The government has promised to abolish the outside toilets by 2025.

Why so long? The majority of these houses without plumbing are owned by landlords who collect rent weekly from these poor souls. Most of them are living paycheck-to-paycheck.

Slum landlords must be held accountable and provide their tenants with the basic human needs, including standard plumbing and toilets. The ministry of works shall ensure proper inspections of homes prior to occupancy.

The Bahamas has one of the highest standards of living and yet we can’t provide our people with basic necessities of life; using these outside toilets poses a health risk, as all this waste goes into the water table, persons living close by are at high risk of well contamination. This is a ticking bomb with the clock counting down to a major health disaster. It’s high time we become proactive rather that reactive and fix this possible health threat before it affects us all.

There are many lots and homes that are abandoned and it is an incredibly arduous undertaking to determine who are the owners. The government needs a program to take over these properties and have homes built and either sold or leased to the residents of Bains Town and Grants Town. This is a step in the right direction. Sadly, community basketball courts are not enough. The people of The Bahamas need strategically placed community centers that offer progressive outreach programs, including education centers, to assist children throughout their educational endeavours.

To the residents in Bains Town and Grants Town and other inner city communities, I must to tell you that your political representatives have failed you repeatedly. It’s your time to hold them accountable!

Take responsibility for your community and demand the respect and standards that all Bahamian citizens deserve, regardless of race, creed or religion. It’s time to stop waiting for the government to do things for you; grab the bull by the horns and help yourselves.

As the adage goes, “If it’s to be then it’s up to me”.

• William Wong is a two-term president of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation, and two-term president of the Bahamas Real Estate Association. William Wong is a partner at Darville-Wong Realty. E-mail: williamuwong@gmail.com.

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