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‘I’m tired of living like this’

Jean Joseph, 25, of Marsh Harbour, Abaco has been living in the Kendal G.L. Isaacs National Gymnasium for months.

Joseph claims that dozens of shelter residents, who fled Abaco and Grand Bahama in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, have left the gym for fear of an immigration raid.

“All I know is that everyone is leaving,” he said yesterday

“Police officers have been telling people from last month that they have to do a big raid, and if you’re not straight you might as well not stay in here.

“So, the ones that wasn’t straight just left.”

Joseph said he plans to move back to Abaco, though he admits he doesn’t have a work permit or a home of his own.

Joseph said he plans to stay with a friend in Hope Town until he’s able to find housing for himself. 

Before the storm, he was a mason’s helper, and unlocked smartphones for members of his community on the side.

He lived in The Mudd, a shantytown in Abaco that was flattened by Hurricane Dorian. 

Joseph, a man of Haitian descent, also said that though he’s undocumented, he has never been to Haiti and is in contact with none of his family members on the impoverished island nation. 

“If I have to go, I’ll go, but I can’t be at the shelter anymore,” he said. 

“I’m tired of living like this.”

He added that he’s ready to restore his life and begin fending for himself no matter the cost. 

Ella Duronne, 46, from Marsh Harbour said she doesn’t have the luxury of leaving the shelter yet though she desperately wants to. 

“Right now, we need a house,” she said. 

“Right now, I’m putting God first in everything.

“I trust that He’ll show me what moves to make.”

Duronne said she worked at a fish house back in Abaco where she cleaned and packaged seafood. 

She added that she’s open to finding similar employment opportunities in New Providence, but her lack of funds has kept her stuck at the shelter for months. 

“I would love to search for [a] job, but I don’t know [New Providence] like that, and I have no money to get around and look,” Duronne said.  

“I don’t even have anyone to help me out so that I can go and check.

“When you know you don’t have any money and you have a family, it’s hard.”

Ricardo Prince, 19, of Marsh Harbour, Abaco, claimed he was arrested on Monday for stealing a box of cereal from the shelter where he lives. 

Superintendent Mark Barret confirmed that a young man was taken into the Coconut Grove Police station yesterday and has since been released.

He added that the matter is being dealt with internally by the Department of Social Services.

Because of this, Prince said he’s determined to leave the shelter as staff members are depriving residents of “basic human rights”. 

“Although people are saying it’s hard in Abaco, I’m still going back,” he said. 

“I still know I can find a job.

“I’ll work to try to help myself because this place right here doesn’t mean anyone any good.”

Prince has no plan in place as yet, but he said he is confident that life on Abaco will be a lot better than life at the shelter. 

He has been living in the shelter with his mother and two siblings. 

Prince said he’s particularly annoyed with the fact that residents are placed on a curfew and are unable to get as much as a glass of water after a certain time. 

He likened his experience thus far to that of a jail. 

“All they’re doing is depriving people of their basic human rights,” Prince said. 

“They’re making us feel like we’re not equal.

“It doesn’t matter if we’re a different nationality. All of our blood is still the same color.”

Minister of Social Services Frankie Campbell previously said he had hoped to deactivate the shelters by the end of 2019, however Deputy Director of Social Services Kim Sawyer said that the shelters cannot close until the department is satisfied with where all of the residents are going. 

Asked for an update on the shelter closures, Sawyer told The Nassau Guardian yesterday that no deadline has been determined as yet. 

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