National Review

 Life in a tent

Five months after Hurricane Dorian robbed Beverly Sawyer of her home and way of life, the 55-year-old is fighting to start over.

Dorian, a Category 5 monster storm, leveled portions of Abaco and Grand Bahama last September.

Since then, many residents like Sawyer, who left the island after the hurricane, have come back home.

She is living in an insulated tent on the foundation of her Marsh Harbour home.

She has four tents: one for sleeping, one for cooking and two for storage.

The cooking tent has a small refrigerator, a portable burner, solar battery and food supplies.

If she needs to shower, Sawyer said, she travels to a relative’s home and uses the shower, though she noted she sometimes gets a container, fills it with water and showers in the kitchen tent.

She also has a porta potty that serves as her bathroom.

National Review drove by the unusual home several times before stopping by yesterday morning.

Sawyer’s three dogs, two “potcakes” and a pug, seemed to query why we were there. But Sawyer invited us in and sat down with us in the remains of her kitchen.

“I am going to rebuild,” she said.

“I am going to rebuild on the same platform, smaller.”

Her home is surrounded by mangled businesses and other homes.

We asked how she managed during the night, when the temperature dipped to 64 degrees.

“It was cold,” she said.

“The insulation doesn’t stop the damp so some dampness did get in there. I slept with a sheet, a blanket, a comforter and another sheet on top of it just to keep the damp off of my body. But once I was under those layers I was warm.”

And her dogs?

“They have their own little cot in there that they bundle up on,” she said.

“It’s a challenge. Just like the bad thunderstorm.”

Over the weekend, a nasty thunderstorm moved over Marsh Harbour and these days any storm reminds residents of Dorian.

“So Saturday morning, 2 a.m., it started here,” Sawyer said.

“It was raining and thundering. We were on the inside and you could see the walls moving. The dogs were terrified. It slowed for a minute and I was like I just can’t stay here.

“I was like, the sound of this was worse than the sound of the hurricane. What I did at 2 a.m., me and my dogs got out, got in my car and slept in my car until daylight because I was afraid to move in the dark.

“So we slept in my car until 7. It’s what I’ve had to do. It’s really not easy.”

She said the thought of “water just flapping on the seashore and hearing it was terrifying”.

“I’m still afraid of the sound of water and rain,” she said.

“It’s hard.”


The challenges don’t stop there though.

Sawyer said she has to plan ahead before doing anything.

“You have to think ahead 20 minutes to do one thing,” she said.

“Just making coffee is a challenge most days.

“You wake up and mentally you’re not prepared to do it.

“It’s a challenge just going out the door. Normally, I had a fence in the yard that I could just walk out my door, close my door and if the dogs came in or out it was fine. But now I’ve got to make sure the dogs are in their pen.

“Night is coming and you have to think, ‘Are the solar batteries charged up so that you have light so that you’re not spending so much money running the generator?’

“You can’t clean the floor.

“It’s hard to just function. Someone gave me a washer so I have to wait until I’ve got a good amount to even think about washing because I’ve got to conserve fuel.

“Doing anything with the government is really, really hard. I applaud the workers, but nothing happens right away. They are trying to help us, but you go for assistance and it takes three weeks for it to be approved.

“I mean what needs to be approved, I’m homeless. I’m without a job and I need something.’

“Give me a voucher for food. I would like to go to the food store and buy a gallon of milk or a cold orange juice.”

Sawyer said she wants to build a small shelter on her home, but was told she needs a permit.

“I’d just like to put up four walls and a roof so I can get out of a pod so that I can at least be sleeping in something really dry,” she said.

“But I can’t even do that without a permit, without a plan.

“That right there is completely unfair. I have nothing, but I have a few dollars and my bother is a contractor that is willing to put up a dry structure to go into and I can’t because I don’t have a plan and I don’t have a permit? That ain’t right.”

She also hopes to open a business.

“My future plans are I want to open my own business, bring back my pizza business with a coffee shop and a bakery,” she said.

“I hope to do it right here at some point.

“Once I get my papers sorted out to show that I own this property, I want to go to the one stop shop to get a grant to start a business. That’s my plan.”

For now, she’s cleaning up her property, reading in her downtime and working on a temporary job helping a lawyer salvage files.

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Travis Cartwright-Carroll

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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