Monday, May 20, 2019
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‘We are all human’

Emmanuel Joseph, a lifelong resident of the Allen Drive shantytown, said yesterday that he is breathing a little easier after the Supreme Court issued an injunction preventing the demolition of shantytowns on New Providence.

But Joseph, like scores of others in that community, does not believe it is a respite that will last for very long.

The remaining residents, Joseph said, are packing their things to leave.

“We are all human,” said Joseph, who was only wearing a pair of sandals and shorts.

“We feel unfairly targeted.

“It makes no sense my being here if you are going to target me.”

There were, at last report, 28 people living in that community.

The government gave shantytown residents until Friday to leave the communities before demolition started.

The structures are built on Crown land that was leased for farming.

Joseph said a lot of people have left ahead of the government’s deadline.

Other lifelong residents, like Joseph’s brothers, Fidel, a 33-year-old father of two, and Renaldo, said there is a feeling of uneasiness hovering over the community.

“This feels like the last days,” Renaldo said.

Renaldo said he has been viewing the community with fresh eyes.

Many residents were hiding in the shade of a guinep tree or retreating inside their clapboard homes seeking shelter from the sun’s oppressive gaze.

Last week this time, the remaining residents were preparing for the government’s deadline for them to evacuate the community.

Fidel, who was helping his brother get a very small ring off his finger, said he has been unable to find new accommodations for his family.

“I can’t have peace of mind because I don’t have much time. I need a job,” Fidel said.

He said that no one wants to live in a shantytown.

“Nobody likes living like this,” he said, nodding to the pile of garbage filled with plastic bottles and old tomato paste and tuna cans near him.

“It’s just that you find yourself caught up in certain situations and you don’t want to be in that situation.”

A little girl, no older than seven and wearing a purple shirt, ran up to Fidel. Clutching a piece of bread, she offers him some, but he declines and sends her off.

Fidel said he is working on building his home, up to code, on land that he bought.

“Personally, I was trying to see if I could get the house up and running so at least if they come I could have some place to rest for me and my family,” he said.

“My kids are one of my main priorities right now. Putting them in a better position is what I’m trying to work on.”

He noted that the government has not given residents enough time to find new homes.

Asked how much time shantytown residents would need, Fidel said, “They should have given everybody the same time like the people in Abaco, that year. In that time, I’m sure they could accumulate or get enough money to even try and purchase the land.”

The Abaco shantytowns and other Family Island shantytowns will be cleared out by July 31, 2019, according to officials.

Renaldo has it a little easier.

He said he has a place to live already.

“I’m platinum,” he said.

“But just to know that this is my brother’s home, my step mom, her home; this is where you learn to get up in the morning and work.

“It isn’t like you come here and it’s hard. You are in a community of good people. You could go to work and you could be sure that someone would watch your child, if your child is old enough.

“We live as a community here.

“Some people really look at the back here as a jungle. We are hardworking people. People who wake up in the morning just trying to feed their children.”

There is no electricity in the community. Homes are powered by generator.

During The Guardian’s visit, other residents began to appear, hoping to share their plight.

Fifty-six-year-old Beatrice Joseph has never paid rent in her life.

She has spent 30 years in the Allen Drive community and isn’t sure how she will adjust to life outside the community.

While the injunction will give her more time, she is eager to move on.

But she is faced with a very common challenge – no money.

“Have you found a place?” The Guardian asked.

Joseph replied, “I’m trying to get a place.

“I’m leaving one dungeon of darkness into more darkness. There is no light where I am going.

“I already paid the woman some money for me to move in. Now she’s saying that I have to bring something down to move in. But I told her that I don’t have no $250 more.”

Peter Guillaume, 32, said he wasn’t sure how he felt about the injunction.

“I still don’t have nowhere else to live,” he said.

Near the exit of the community, another resident approached The Guardian.

“ZNS?” Francisco Simmons asked. “Oh, you’re from The Guardian. Are you here to talk about this thing?”

Simmons, who has lived in the community for 23 years, said he has not been able to find alternative housing.

Asked what he was going to do, Simmons said, “Maybe cause problems. I won’t lie. If you run me from here, where am I supposed to go, on someone else’s land?

“Then that’s problems.”

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

The majority of the households surveyed reported weekly incomes of less than $400, the report said.

Travis Cartwright-Carroll

Assistant Editor at The Nassau Guardian
Travis Cartwright-Carroll is the assistant editor. He covers a wide range of national issues. He joined The Nassau Guardian in 2011 as a copy editor before shifting to reporting. He was promoted to assistant news editor in December 2018.
Education: College of The Bahamas, English

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