Plans to deactivate shelters that house Hurricane Dorian evacuees have been halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Minister of Social Services Frankie Campbell said yesterday.
Campbell said the Poinciana Inn facility and the old Bahamas Academy gym facility on Wulff Road were slated to be shut down last week, but Cabinet decided to extend their operations.
“I would have said to the press that Cabinet had approved the facility at Poinciana for 90 days,” Campbell said.
“That period expired on the 15th of this month. In light of the situation, Cabinet has agreed to extend it for the period of the COVID and the lockdown. So we will revisit that on an ongoing basis. But as was our desire from day one to get them properly transitioned, we continue to work on that. And some have already transitioned.”
Campbell said roughly 140 people remain in the two facilities.
“I think about 71 are in the Poinciana Inn,” he said.
“…Wulff Road is a comparable number – less than 100.”
Hurricane Dorian, the strongest hurricane to ever make landfall in the region, tore through Abaco and Grand Bahama nearly nine months ago, leaving ruin in its wake.
At least 70 people died in the storm and thousands were left homeless and displaced.
In the weeks following the storm, more than 2,000 evacuees were residing in shelters across New Providence.
In January, following the closure of a number of shelters on New Providence, the Ministry of Social Services announced that fifty rooms at the Poinciana Inn would temporarily house some of the Hurricane Dorian evacuees still needing shelter.
At the time, Campbell said just under 200 people were still living in the Bahamas Academy gym and another 67 were staying at the Poinciana Inn.
When asked yesterday about social distancing practices and the threat of COVID-19 at the shelters, Campbell said the matter is not a concern.
“The beauty of it is you could compare them to one household,” he said
“They would have been there prior to. And so, the same kind of relationship five or six persons in the same household who would have been sheltering together would enjoy, they are having those same kinds of distancing. We’ve sought to provide them with the necessary sanitization equipment and masks, etc, but they were all in one household prior to COVID.”