Some evacuees face a daunting task of finding work

Hurricane survivors evacuated to New Providence are eager to put the pieces of their lives back together, but yesterday some expressed difficulties in trying to do so.

Winson Youth, 37, of Marsh Harbour, Abaco, desires to rebuild his life after a traumatic Hurricane Dorian experience, but is nursing wounds that prevent him from finding work.

“I can’t work right now because I got my finger cut off. It got cut off in the storm. I didn’t even know it was off,” he said outside the Department of Social Services.

“After the storm when I looked at my hand, I saw it was off…because I got flung in the sea water. So, it probably made the hand numb.”

He also injured both of his legs while clinging to a tree during the first half of the storm.

As he sat outside the Baillou Hill Road complex, he pointed to scratches that covered his shins.

Youth said that he had planned to ride out the storm with five of his friends at a home in Marsh Harbour.

Out of the six of them, only two survived Hurricane Dorian’s wrath.

Back in Abaco, Youth was a carpenter and a driver for Maxwell’s Supermarket on Stratton Drive.

He plans to stay in New Providence until he gets back on his feet, and eventually move back to Abaco.

Youth said he was at the Department of Social Services to receive assistance with groceries.

After the storm, he said, material things mean nothing to him, but he is committed to keeping a clear mind and remaining positive.

Claude St. Fleur, 50, is determined to find work, and has been on the hunt since he came to New Providence after the storm.

He said: “It’s not easy for us to [build] a life after the storm. Nobody has anywhere to live in Abaco.”

Before the storm, the father of five lived in Central Pines, Marsh Harbour, and owned a small painting and masonry business.

He said: “Once I find work, I could be happy. I can provide for my family, [and] I can provide for myself.”

He said he has also been taking care of his niece since his brother was deported to Haiti a few years back, and is working to get her and his youngest son in school soon.

St. Fleur said he has a number of family members in the United States, but is unable to contact them because he lost his phone in the storm.

He said he needs to replace his damaged passport and plans to build a better life for him and his family even if he has to leave the country.

Smiling, he said: “One thing I got to say is thank God for life.”

Satia Odas, who lived in Dundas Town, Abaco, with her mother and two daughters, said she has been tirelessly searching for a job, but had zero luck.

She arrived on the island two weeks ago with her relatives.

Odas used to work as a maid at the Abaco Inn in Hope Town, but said she would accept any job at this point.

Odas and her family lost everything, including their home.

She said that during the storm, she and her family huddled in a room at the back of the house.

As they huddled, she said, they watched the storm toss all of their belongings around the house.

“I was crying because that was the first time I saw something like that,” she said.

“I want to find a job now because [I’m not doing] anything here. I can’t find a job now. Everywhere I go they say they’re not ready [to hire].”

While the rate of unemployment dropped nationally from 10.7 percent in November 2018 to 9.5 percent in May 2019, significant challenges with unemployment remain.

At the time of the Labour Force Survey, there were 15,440 people listed as unemployed on New Providence.

Thousands of evacuees have come to the island from Abaco and Grand Bahama. The challenge with finding work and housing is expected to be significant.

Hurricane Dorian shredded large swaths of Abaco and Grand Bahama nearly three weeks ago.

Many individuals lost loved ones in the storm, as well as their homes and other properties.

According to the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF), the death toll thus far is 52. But Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands has said the final death toll is expected to be “staggering”.

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