Homelessness in The Bahamas

Dear Editor,

I have shed much tears for homeless mothers and their children. It breaks my heart to see them suffer in a country with so much wealth and resources.

Whenever something bothers you, it means that a part of your assignment is to fix that situation. Subsequently, with the assistance of the Board of Directors of Great Commission Ministries and the kind support of the general public, we pledge to build or acquire a facility that is able to accommodate at least 100 homeless people. This will ease a heavy burden that has frustrated numerous mothers and fathers in The Bahamas for decades.

Over the past 34 years, my ministry has been blessed by the Most High God to have been able to accommodate hundreds of mothers and children, who, for whatever reason,  found themselves without a roof over their heads.

These precious souls end up on the streets or living in abandoned buildings, derelict vehicles and at times, on the beaches. We have seen it all.

Homelessness is even greater among our male population. We have been able to assist countless men, who were evicted from their apartments when they fell on hard times.

Many people have no compassion for the homeless unless they or their loved ones are affected.

Homelessness is perhaps the most humiliating and degrading event in the lives of victims. When people have no place to lay their heads at night, they face one of the greatest traumas and setbacks in life. Their lives are literally in shambles.

These people live in fear and uncertainty. Many times people end up homeless for reasons beyond their control. Women and children are extremely vulnerable to predators and criminals. As you read this, please be aware that at this very moment, a number of people are being evicted and need urgent help.

The major causes of homelessness are unemployment, sickness, domestic violence and other family problems.

Other causes are fire, natural disasters and economic hardship.

While homelessness has been on the rise for the past few years, the current pandemic has exacerbated the problem and more people find themselves on the streets than ever before. Something needs to be done now to resolve this unpleasant situation that has caused so much pain and shame to our people.

The government of The Bahamas has rendered some assistance to homeless people by giving them a week’s housing in a motel and they sometimes extend the stay to two weeks.

After this, the distraught family is put back on the streets, if they are unable to secure accommodations during this period.

While temporary housing is a help, this is not a solution. After nearly 54 years of majority rule, I’m sad to say that no government of The Bahamas has placed the needs of the poor and homeless as a priority. They have been left to suffer and this has contributed to the high level of crime and lawlessness that we are experiencing today.

We were elated when the new minister of social development echoed his intentions to address matters relating to homelessness and poverty. I trust this is not an idle promise as with previous administrations.

I urge the present government to not allow the cries of the poor, homeless and unemployed to fall on deaf ears.

Our people have been oppressed and neglected for far too long, and if this situation is not corrected, there may be an uprising in the future. There is only so much suffering our people can endure. They need relief and they need it now.

Great Commission Ministries proposes to purchase an existing hotel or build a housing complex for homeless men, women and children that will drastically reduce homelessness in New Providence.

The estimated cost is around $2 million and we will be asking the government of The Bahamas to fund this project and put it in the upcoming budget. We also plan to build a few two-bedroom cottages for married couples with children, who find themselves homeless.

Finally, we urge Bahamians, residents, business owners, banks, hotels, unions, civic organizations and church leaders to join us in bringing relief to the homeless.

Our two major goals are feeding the poor and sheltering the homeless.

We have been faithful in carrying out our mandate, but our resources have been stretched beyond our limits. We will be calling on the above-mentioned entities to assist in our building project.

We also need people to donate regularly to our feeding and housing programs by making weekly or monthly donations at our headquarters located at 237 Wulff Road, Nassau.

Bishop Walter S. Hanchell

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