Tuesday, Feb 19, 2019
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‘We need more time’

Shantytown residents stressed as deadline approaches
Officials from the Shantytown Action Task Force put up notices in shantytown communities on Monday. TORRELL GLINTON

Despite an extension given to residents of shantytowns on New Providence to evacuate those communities, several residents are pleading with the government for more time, insisting that they have no money to relocate and nowhere to go.

The government has extended the deadline for shantytown residents from July 31 to August 10.

Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes and members of the Shantytown Action Task Force (SATF) gave out final notices to the residents of the 11 shantytowns on New Providence on Monday to pack up their belongings and evacuate all unregulated buildings.

Evens Innocnd said his family is experiencing great pain and stress as a result of the notices.

“I’m concerned about it because I was there from I born,” said Innocnd, a resident of a shantytown just off of Golden Isle Road.

“When I born, I meet this house here. My grammy have like 18 years in Nassau and my grandaddy was there way before, but my grandaddy just passed away about two weeks ago.

“So you know what it is, you invest so much and you could see we just get [electricity], we done do all of that and the water over there, we just do the water and everything; we invest so much in the house.

“Now we realize they telling us that we can’t live in it no more and all of that money that we just spent, [it’s] like we [don’t have] no other option to move.”

Innocnd said his family recently spent over $4,000 fixing the roof of his childhood home, painting and renovating the inside.

He said had they known about the eviction sooner, they wouldn’t have invested all of their time and money into that house.

He said his family also has to budget money for his grandfather’s funeral, which makes the timing of the eviction even more inconvenient.

He added that he is especially concerned about his elderly grandmother.

“She [isn’t] ready yet to move in an apartment because they [don’t have] the money and she doesn’t work,” Innocnd said.

“That’s the whole problem.

“I could understand if she was working and other people around the house was working.

“If so, we wouldn’t have a problem moving out.”

“…We [don’t] have the money to do all of that, that’s the reason why [we are asking] for them to be patient with us, so we could deal with all of that.

“That’s why we’re in so much pain.

“My grammy crying every day. I can’t stop her from crying because whatever she has on her chest, she has to let it out.

“And I just have to be around to motivate her to do better.”

Innocnd said his family does not know what they will do yet.

He said his mother is considering moving out of the country but his grandmother doesn’t have a visa, creating another issue for them.

He said they are now feeling hopeless.

As for the rest of the people in the community, Innocnd said he believes they are feeling the same way.

“Everybody struggling in the community,” he said.

“Everybody trying to make a living, to know they have somewhere to sleep.

“I guess if they had more opportunities they wouldn’t be living like this, because no one would want to be living like this, close to each other, houses on top of houses.

“It don’t make no sense. Everybody just want a shelter to live in.

“As long as they keeping the area clean and quiet, it should not be a problem.”

Some residents have lived in that community for over 30 years.

One resident of 15 years, who asked not to be named, said she will be homeless come August 10 and will have to sleep on the church floor or in her car for shelter.

“I don’t have no money because I wasn’t ready for that,” said the woman, moments after members of the task force stapled a notice on her front door.

“Since they want that, I’ll move out and give them the property. I don’t have no problem with that.

“I will sleep on the floor or go to the church and find someplace to stay.

“The church always opened for everybody.

“I don’t have no money. I could sleep on the floor or sleep in my car.”

She said she has already invested her time and money into her home, and while she does not know where she will go next, she will find a way.

“I will find a way, go back to Haiti or go to Miami,” she added.

Didae Giqucues, a mother of two – a six-year-old and a two-year-old – said she, too, does not know what she will do when the deadline comes.

“I don’t know because I don’t work, I ain’t find no place yet,” Giqucues said.

“I need the government to give me some more time please, because I don’t have no money, I don’t work; it’s too fast.”

She said she currently only works one day out of the week.

She called the entire ordeal very stressful for her and her family.

The final notices were issued two weeks after the task force advised residents to present valid building permits or occupancy certificates to the Ministry of Works.

Foulkes said only nine people had presented building permits.

However, he said none of them had occupancy certificates.

Victor Moon said he has tried to find a new place since getting the first notice, but said he has yet to find anything.

He said not having a steady job is his greatest problem in attempting to move.

“I believe [it’s] too quick, too fast,” Moon said.

“You could give some people some more time. That’s too quick because some people, they don’t have anywhere to go. You have to give them some more time.”

He said while he will continue to look for someplace else to live, he is hopeful the government will change its mind.

“What has to be done has to be done, ain’t like I feel a way about it,” he said.

“So all I’m asking, y’all give us some more time.”

For Jean Mary-Jean, six more months is an appropriate amount of time for residents to get themselves sorted and moved out of the shantytowns.

Mary-Jean said he has lived in the Golden Isles shantytown for three years after moving to New Providence from Exuma to try make money for his family.

“The government has to do something for people, give them extra months so they could be ready to move, because that’s too quick,” he said.

“… [Six months] will be better because if the government wants [to] do something, you can’t say [anything], that’s the government.”

He explained that he hasn’t started looking for another place to live because he first has to find the money to move.

“We have to do something because that’s too quick to move in August because there are a lot of people who are sick, who don’t have money to go to an apartment.

“Especially me, I can’t work in the sun because I have [diabetes].”

Earlier this year, the government announced the formation of the SATF, a 30-person committee, to deal with the regularization of shantytowns throughout The Bahamas.

Foulkes has said that the committee’s work will seek to eradicate shantytowns throughout the country.

According to the government’s New Providence Shantytown Assessment Report, 2018, 1,410 people reside in those communities.

In total, 428 households were assessed.

The report shows that the Carmichael constituency has the largest representation (44 percent) of such households, followed by Golden Isles (31 percent) and Elizabeth (25 percent).

The average shantytown household size is 3.3 people.

While 23 percent of the residents’ statuses were not captured, and six percent were recorded as being undocumented, 15 percent of the residents reported being citizens of The Bahamas; 21 percent reported being permanent residents; 32 percent reportedly have work permits; and three percent have spousal permits, according to the report.

The assessment was performed over four weeks.

A shantytown assessment report will also be conducted for shantytowns on Abaco and throughout the country.

Foulkes has said when residents are moved out of those shantytowns, the houses will be destroyed, the vehicles will be removed and the animals will go into the care of The Bahamas Humane Society for adoption or safekeeping.

The land will eventually be vacant.

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