Many shanty town residents not ready to vacate homes

By RICARDO WELLS

Tribune Staff Reporter

rwells@tribunemedia.net

DESPITE an extension to the government's eviction deadline for shanty town residents in New Providence, many of them yesterday said they are still not in a position to vacate their homes and adhere to the deadline.

Residents now have until August 10 to vacate their shanty town homes.

The government's initial deadline was July 31.

Responding to the loud thuds of a staple gun pounding into the exterior wall of her home just before 10 am yesterday, Rose St Fleur said she thought she had followed all the steps presented to her late last month.

"They came weeks before. They asked for the plan. I gave them all we had," she told The Tribune as she tried to hold a young baby in one arm and motion to her grieving mother with the other.

"We have a plan for this house," she said over and repeatedly to a ministry of works official.

"I took plan to the man and he said they will write a number on the wall. See, number right here, Five, the number is five. We don't need the paper, we carried the plan."

A creole translator attached to the government's shanty town action task force walked over, and in trying to broker peace, asked: "Creole, do you speak creole?"

A conversation followed in creole, only to be broken with the phrase. "August 10? They want who gone by August 10?"

The translator responded: "The government. The government wants all of you gone by August 10. That is the plan."

Rose, who then mumbles something back in creole to her mother and an elderly neighbour just to the side of her, with a distraught look in her eyes pleaded: "We can't go. We have nowhere to go. We have a disabled person in here and we can't go anywhere else."

"My brother, he is 25 and he is autistic, " she told The Tribune. "I live here with my mother, father, kids and my brother."

"We are trying. But money is little and we can't move. This is all we have and they can't tear it down. This is all we have."

Still shocked by the eviction notice stapled to the front of her house, Rose ripped it from the wall, looked it over and took off through the back of her home.

She ran to a neighbour's house to let him know, however, that neighbour was also alerted by the loud thuds of a staple gun.

The two shared a conversation.

Rose then motioned to The Tribune and said: "Is this real? Is the government doing this for real?"

A few properties south, Evan Innocent, a young teenager struggling to cope with the recent loss of his grandfather issued a plea of his own.

Holding back tears, he told reporters that the news of the planned eviction process has devastated his already grieving family.

Evan said his grandfather, who suffered a stroke last month, died in hospital last Friday; leaving the family with a home he constructed, but a property for which he was paying rent.

"My mommy just invest in the house, " he told reporters. "The roof just do. My mommy just spent money on the house."

According to Evan, the family has worked over the last few years to modernise the home.

Electricity, running water and a newly constructed roof; just the latest in upgraded amenities he said the family struggled to incorporate.

"I was here from I born.

"When I born I meet this house here.

"My grammy had 18 years in Nassau.

"My grand daddy had way more. We done invest so much. We just get current. We just do the water."

"I don't feel comfortable with it at all, " he told reporters when asked how he felt about the government's eviction deadline.

"How my grammy old, that is too much thinking for her, " he added. "She can't move in no apartment right now."

"Be patient with us.

"My grammy crying everyday," he said. "I can't stop her from crying, what she have on her chest she have to get out. I just have to be here for her."

Young Evan said the family, in the midst of planning his grandfather's funeral has held open discussions on options for the family.

On the list, the option of relocating to the United States.

However, he said his grandmother's lack of a visa has hindered that process.

He told reporters if the government is serious with its eviction plans, he and members of his family will be homeless and broke.

According to government statistics, some 500 residents are believed to remain in shanty towns set for demolition in the capital.

A government survey was conducted in ten of the 11 New Providence shanty towns over a four-week period.

The populations of the communities were reported as: Montgomery Avenue, 115 residents; Allen Drive; 28 residents; Bellot Road; 10; Golden Gates Road, 291 residents; Lazaretto Road, 56 residents; Cowpen Road (west), 165 residents; Bacardi Road east, 39 residents, and west, 96 residents; and Lumumba Lane, 160 residents.

The report also included 27 residents who participated, but were not categorised by location.

Initially residents were given the opportunity to show legal documents granting them a right to occupy their respective properties. That marked the first step in the government's eviction process.

Yesterday's eviction notice served as step two.

In the coming weeks, the government intends to complete demolition of all 11 of the shanty town communities identified in New Providence.