Nowhere to go

Jeainse Pierre, 34, has been living in the Kendal G. L. Isaacs Gymnasium since Hurricane Dorian ravaged Abaco and Grand Bahama in early September.

“There is nowhere for me to go,” Pierre told The Nassau Guardian yesterday as she stood outside the gymnasium.

She said storm victims at the shelter have become increasingly concerned about their future after Minister of Social Services Frankie Campbell said that the government intends to close shelters on New Providence by next month.

“We’re hoping that by the end of this year, before the holidays, that we can have all of those persons [in the shelters] successfully transitioned back to an environment that they are familiar with, to an environment that they are comfortable with, and be in a position to help further clean up and restore and bring back normalcy,” Campbell said.

Pierre said many of the evacuees at the gym feel as though they are in limbo.

“Almost everybody in the shelter, they ain’t have no work permit,” she said.

“Everybody now is talking and talking and saying they don’t know where they are going to. Some of them, they don’t even have nowhere to go in Haiti.

“They don’t even know where they going. They ain’t have nothing. They ain’t have no family. They just here with their kids or their boyfriend or their husband.”

Nearly three months after Dorian, the gymnasium looks more like a refugee camp than a sporting facility.

Three large white tents are erected outside the facility.

It is used as a dormitory for the 457 evacuees who have taken refuge at the gym.

A metal fence lined with a dark-colored tarp separates the residents, who are survivors of Dorian, from the rest of the world.

The public is not allowed past that fence. Photographs beyond that point are also prohibited, according to an official at the shelter.

Some residents said they feel confined in the enclosed area so they spend their days lounging in the grass and on the pavement in front of the gym.

Mochinede Cerdil, 24, of Pigeon Peas shantytown on Abaco, is one of those individuals.

“They say before Christmas they’re supposed to close the place,” Cerdil said as she held her head and stared blankly into the distance.

“I don’t know where I’m going to go. My kids are six years old and one year old.”

When asked about her next step, Cerdil said, “I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know.”

She said she doesn’t have anyone or anywhere to turn to.

“I only have my two kids and my baby daddy,” Cerdil said.

“My mummy dead [and] my daddy dead.”

Cerdil said officials told evacuees that they will be deported to Haiti if they are unable to show documents permitting them to be in The Bahamas.

Because of this, she said she is stressed about what the future holds.

“My two kids were born here,” Cerdil said.

“When the hurricane came, I lost everything. How can you tell me you’ll send me to Haiti?”

More than a dozen of the evacuees at the shelter told The Nassau Guardian that they are of Haitian descent. Some said they lived in shantytowns on Abaco before the communities were wiped out by Dorian.

Many of them did not speak English.

A handful of the evacuees were able to piece together sentences in broken English.

The Guardian had to use a translator when it interviewed Celdieu Jean Jacques, 55, a man from Abaco.

During that interview, Celdieu expressed fear about leaving the safety of the shelter, noting that he does not know what his next step is.

“I can’t go to Marsh Harbour right now because I don’t have no place to live in Marsh Harbour,” said Jacques as he anxiously fumbled with a cigarette lighter.

“If the government closes the shelter, then I can’t say anything.

“I would have to go but I don’t know where I would go.”

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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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