Some Bain Town residents believe they’re slipping through the cracks

Peter Sands, 60, of Finlayson Street lives in a small clapboard house with no windows, no ceiling, no running water, and a screen door that he opens by hitting a piece of wood against a nail.

He said when it rains, sewage seeps through his bedroom floor and floods his room.

“Do you know what it is to smell that, and sit in here to wait until it dries?” Sands asked.

“Sometimes I sleep in the front, but it’s almost like sleeping in my bedroom. It’s just closer to the screen door.”

The walls in Sands’ home were soft enough to push down with one’s bare hands.

Last week, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis assured that the government is focused on protecting the poor, but a few Bahamians yesterday said that they thought otherwise.

Data from the Department of Statistics revealed that Bahamians are paying more for basic goods and services than they have over the past four years.

Official data also shows that as of six years ago, 43,000 people in The Bahamas were living in poverty – on less than $354 per month.

Sands is among that number.

He said he has been in out and prison for the past 38 years of his life, and has been unable to find work since he was released three years ago.

He said he has been living in the area since then with no electricity, and barely any groceries.

The home of Finlayson Street resident Peter Sands, which has no windows, a roof that can’t withstand a splash of rain and a screen mesh door for a front door.

He said he also has to cope with snakes, centipedes, and frogs falling from his exposed roof as he sleeps.

“I get the little $275 from government a month, but by the time I get that my medication and rent takes up the majority of my funds,” he said.

“It’s so bad in here that the wood in the house has corroded, and it’s hard to sleep in the back here sometimes because it smells so bad in the night when it gets soaked.”

Sands added that living under these conditions, coping with diabetes, high blood pressure and paying rent, takes a toll on him.

“I don’t think the government is doing enough to help people like us,” he said.

“Social Services told me that they were coming to see me for the last four months. I haven’t seen them yet.

“They said that they have to check my house, and they took the little card that I use to get $84 worth of groceries. I can’t get groceries now, and that put a hurting on me. I have nothing and no one.”

William Smith, 74, of Farrington Road said that paying $550 for rent per month makes it difficult for him to live.

“I get $400 from government and $200 from NIB, but by the time I pay rent, there’s nothing left,” Smith said.

“I don’t work. So, it’s difficult for me to keep my head above water.”

Like Sands, Smith said his grocery card was also taken by the Department of Social Services five months ago, leaving him to fend for himself with his limited income.

“I just went to them, and they told me to come back next year,” he said.

“This makes me feel bad. It’s rough, and Minnis is saying all of these things but I don’t see any of it happening.

“It’s not fair. He’s the prime minister. He’s supposed to hear the cries of the small man.”

A resident of Meadows Street who wished to remain anonymous told The Guardian, “Some people don’t have anything to eat, and jobs are hard to find.

“I don’t think it’s right. The only thing that’s going up is the cost of living, and when you get your little paycheck, you realize that you’re only working to pay bills.

“The government said that they were going to reduce the cost of living before the election, but now it’s just going up. I don’t know how we’re supposed to make it like this.”

Henrietta Major, 73, of Meadow Street said she has been renting her home for 47 years.

“At my age, I’m living off of my pension of $700 per month,” she said.

“My pension pays my rent which is $450 a month. After that, I’m left with one little $250 for the rest of the month.”

Major said after she pays the rent, she ensures she pays the electricity bill, leaving her with limited funds for the remainder of the month.

Major said she sells sodas to make up for what she is missing, but even those funds are limited.

Asked if she believes the government is doing enough to protect the poor, she said, “That man (Minnis) is only talking. He’s only talking to show off himself. He isn’t trying to help anyone or at least make it easy for us to make ends meet. He’s jiving. He needs to walk around this area and see what’s really going on, and how people are really living every day because I don’t think he knows. It’s rough.”

It was revealed that the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose to 108.81 in September this year. Inflation rose at its fastest pace in March and April this year by four percent, before settling by 1.8 percent in July at the start of the new fiscal year, where it stayed in September.

The CPI increase comes despite a number of tax breaks the government implemented in the 2019/2020 budget.

The Minnis administration has faced significant backlash over the past several weeks after announcing an additional fee for Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) consumers due to a rate reduction bond.

The Rate Reduction Bond Bill, 2019, was passed in the House of Assembly two weeks ago. During the debate of the bill, Minister of Works Desmond Bannister said that the bond will result in an average of a $20 to $30 monthly increase to household bills for a 10-month period.

The opposition has raised concern over the disproportionate impact that a flat-fee increase on all bills would have on the poor and those who consume less electricity.

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