Some shelter residents claim conditions deteriorating

Some residents at the Kendal G.L. Isaacs Gymnasium are still coping with the challenge of rebuilding their lives nearly two months after Hurricane Dorian pummeled large swaths of Grand Bahama and Abaco.

Now, some of them say the conditions at the large shelter are deteriorating.

“We want [to] go home. We want jobs. We want a better life after this storm,” said Nadjah Francois, 35.

“We lost plenty, and we just want to move on.”

The former Marsh Harbour resident said that the facilities at the gym are “terrible”, adding that everyone does not exercise proper hygiene.

“It’s very terrible. When we go to take a shower, there are at least 100 people inside the bathroom, and there’s only two showers working on my side,” she said.

“Sometimes, if you want to use the bathroom, you can’t. It’s too much people, and some people are extremely nasty.”

Francois said since residents from other shelters in New Providence were transferred to the gym, the facility has been cramped.

“Some people became sick. Some of them are children. Some people have even had strokes inside,” she said.

“So, we’re ready to go home. Life ain’t good inside here. We want [to] go home.”

Francois said, since the storm, she has been depending on family members to provide money until she’s able to sustain herself.

However, she said she hasn’t heard from them for over two days.

Francois said: “It’s been two days now, and I haven’t eaten anything because I cannot eat the food they’re serving here. It makes me sick.”

This claim is echoed by other residents, forcing them to look for food elsewhere.

Most of the time, she said, residents are forced to “hustle on the streets” to be able to afford food.

Francois said Hurricane Dorian was a traumatic experience for her, like thousands of other storm survivors.

She recalled seeing friends die in the front of her as she tried to escape the storm’s wrath and find shelter.

She said she lived in The Mudd, a shantytown in Central Abaco that was flattened by the storm, and hopes to find work soon so that she can move out of the shelter.

Jaycee Premilien, 19, said he was fortunate enough to secure a job at the Baha Mar Resort since relocating to New Providence. 

“When I got the job I felt pretty happy to jump on the job and be able to get my money,” he said.

“I don’t really have to depend on much people in there (the shelter) to do things for me because sometimes their food isn’t that good, but I appreciate what they’re doing for us.

“At least they’re helping the people in there who can’t do [anything] for themselves and do certain things. The food [gave] me diarrhea for a couple of days, though. So, I had to ease up on that.” 

Premilien said he thinks the conditions at the shelter are rather favorable, as he hasn’t experienced many problems living in the facility.  

However, after two months of living in a cramped space, he said he too has become a little uncomfortable with his living situation. 

He was among the many residents of The Mudd who did not heed to the evacuation warnings of law enforcement officials before the storm. 

“It was pretty tragic. I almost died. I was with a couple of my friends, but they aren’t with me now and that really has me worried,” Premilien said. 

“I just have to concentrate, stay focused and do what I got to do. I use that as my motivation.”

He explained that he witnessed some of his friends drown as they tried to escape the shantytown during the monster category five storm. 

Premilien hopes to save enough money so that he and his mother can move out of the shelter soon. 

Sauveur Dahaiti of Central Pines, Abaco, also said the living conditions in the shelter are uncomfortable. 

He said: “We have so many people cramped inside on these little mattresses. It’s one little bed. There’s no privacy. Everyone is next to each other.”

Dahaiti also indicated that he doesn’t like the food provided as he has witnessed residents become sick after eating. 

He said: “I stopped eating the food. I buy my own food.”

Dahaiti said he worked as a landscaper at Baker’s Bay Golf and Ocean Club back in Abaco, and said he hopes his employers will call him back to work soon, considering the resort laid off the majority of its staff. 

In the meantime, he said, he’s been desperately searching for an apartment, but that has also become a challenge. 

He said that finding an apartment in a safe area in New Providence is difficult because it’s quite expensive.

He remembers the roof of his home caving in during the storm, and having to escape in the wee hours of the morning.

Ultimately, Dahaiti said, he is thankful that God spared his life.

The Department of Social Services, which runs the shelter, did not return calls about the conditions at the facility up to press time.

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