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Some shelter residents hopeful that next year will be better

Though the holiday season is grim for some shelter residents this year, some are confident that next year will be better.

Patricia Box, 51, said she had been living in The Mudd in Marsh Harbour, Abaco, for 19 years before Hurricane Dorian flattened the shantytown in September

“If the hurricane didn’t come, I would’ve been in the shop right now buying presents for my three children,” said Box, outside Kendal G. L. Isaacs gym.

‘‘Now I’m at the shelter. Everything is not good for me, but I’m happy because I have life.

“Every day for me is Christmas time because I have life.”

Box said her oldest son’s leg broke during the hurricane, but he is progressing well.

She said that all of her family and friends have life, and for that she is grateful.

“I’m just going to pray to God that next year will be better,” she said.

“Next year, I won’t be in the shelter. I don’t want to be in the shelter next year.

“So next Christmas, I’m hoping to be able to kick back, relax and enjoy myself, but for now, I thank God for life.”

Like many others during the holidays, Box said that Haitian nationals look forward to preparing a hearty meal for their families.

“During Christmas, we make the ham and turkey, black beans and rice, and macaroni,” she said as her face lit up.

“This year we can’t do [anything] because we don’t have a knife or anything to say we’re going to prepare a meal, but again, thank God for life.”

Along with the traditional ham and turkey, Gilene Joseph, 25, said that pumpkin soup and chocolate are staples on the dinner table for her family during the holidays.

She, like many other shelter residents, grew up in Marsh Harbour, Abaco.

Though, she said, residents won’t have a choice as to what they will eat this Christmas, she hopes that she can continue making money by braiding hair at the shelter until she is able to get back on her feet.

Gean Lunda, 28, recalled being in the kitchen assisting her family prepare a big holiday meal.

“Last year, I was making my big turkey and my big ham, but I was working,” Lunda said.

“This year, I can’t say the same, but we have somewhere to live, somewhere to sleep and food every day.

“So, thank God for that.”

Lunda managed to survive Dorian’s wrath with five other relatives.

She said that she’s thankful to have made it out alive because many are not alive to tell the story.

“We don’t have a choice but to spend Christmas here. We have nothing, and nowhere to go.

“Things [are] bad this year, but next year [we’ll] bounce back stronger. I know it.”

Hurricane Dorian impacted parts of Abaco and Grand Bahama, leaving many homeless and scores of people dead.

Thousands of evacuees came to New Providence from both islands, and the challenge with finding work and housing is significant.

Last week, Deputy Director of Social Services Kim Sawyer said shelter residents can stay through the holiday season, as the department now plans to close the temporary housing facilities early next year.

She added that once residents are able to identify where they will be moving, the shelters will close.

She added that social services will not consider a resident’s immigration status when the closing date is finalized, as the department operates from a humanitarian standpoint.

The gym and Bahamas Academy campus are the two government shelters that remain open. Nearly 500 people remained in those shelters as of December 9.

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