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Bahamians help organize living arrangements for Dorian victims

A small group of Bahamians yesterday assisted nine hurricane impacted families who could no longer stay at the El Greco Hotel on West Bay Street after living there free of charge for three months.

The families are staying at the Courtyard Marriott on West Bay Street for three days until the group is able to find housing for them.

The housing is reportedly being funded by an anonymous Canadian donor for six months. 

“A lot of the families were served a bitter cup, and were asked to leave. So, we obviously had to step in,” said Denalee Penn-Mackey, who spearheaded the relocation effort.

“We have started the apartment search already, but put it on hold for a while to deal with this immediate situation.

“Once they are settled in the hotel, we are going to go on a hunt for these apartments. We have only a few days to do it.”

She added that some members of these families are blind and disabled. 

Mackey added, “How can we sit back and watch this happen without stepping in to help?”

In a letter to the families, dated December 6, the hotel’s management said, “It is acknowledged that the past three months have a been difficult time for all Bahamians, and in particular you, who [have] experienced first-hand the devastating hurricane which left a life-changing impact. 

“…As El Greco’s shelter agreement is coming to a [close] effective December 10, 2019, we wish to advise that arrangements be made for relocation.

“If shelter is still needed, please feel free to contact a NEMA representative for any assistance. We do apologize for any inconvenience caused.”

Upon hearing the news, Iva Smith, 71, of Dundas Town said she got an instant headache. 

“My head is still hurting because we didn’t know what to do or where to go,” he said. 

“My husband and I are 71, and we don’t have any money like that. We lost everything. So, the news was initially very stressful.”

Smith said the last three months have been terrible, as she has to take care of her six grandchildren while their parents work to pay for school. 

Asked how she feels knowing her family members have a comfortable space to rest their heads, she said, “It feels good. I love Denalee dearly. I’m so appreciative. She has a big heart.”

Inez Maynard, 33, said she felt as though the letter was delivered on short notice because she has two children. 

“I just didn’t know where I was going with my kids because we can’t live on the streets,” Maynard said. 

“I mean you [already] got put on this rock to figure out life for yourself, which isn’t a bad thing, but if you don’t have anyone to help you, it’s rough.

“Then, you get into a state of depression, but you have to remember you have children. So, you have to pick yourself up and do what you have to to do to make sure they’re straight.”

She said that she’s relieved that she and her children have a place to stay, and are getting the help that they need.

Maynard was a kitchen assistant back in Abaco, and has also been looking for a similar position in New Providence. 

So far, she said that she has been on three job interviews, but has been unsuccessful.

Her children, she said, will be attending school in January after being off for an entire semester. 

In the meantime, Maynard said, she is “taking it one day at a time”.

Management at the hotel did not return requests for interviews up to press time.

Hurricane Dorian barreled through Abaco and Grand Bahama in early September, leaving at least 70 people dead and hundreds missing.

Thousands of evacuees have come to New Providence from Abaco and Grand Bahama. The challenge with finding work and housing is expected to be significant.

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