By SANCHESKA BROWN
Tribune Staff Reporter
PASTOR Celiner St Louis said yesterday residents of the Haitian community, devastated by a fire on Monday, want to return to Haiti after claiming they are receiving “little to no” assistance from government and the general public.
More than 200 people were left homeless after a massive fire ripped through their Joe Farrington Road community, destroying more than 50 homes.
The National Emergency Management Agency said Tuesday night, in a statement, they are seeking to determine the extent of the damage and how many people are in need of assistance. The agency also said the Salvation Army, the Department of Social Services, and the Red Cross are providing clothing, non-perishable items, food and accommodations for the displaced persons.
However, Mr St Louis said the assistance they initially received had slowed down and while members of the community are grateful for what they have received, it is not nearly enough for all of the people affected.
“We still need clothes, food and water for children and adults. We saw some people come in on Tuesday and bring clothes and food, but today (Wednesday), they did not come. Only Social Services came and they did not bring enough food. Maybe 20 or 30 people ate what they brought, but we have over 100 people that need to eat, including children,” he said.
“We are thankful for what they give but these people have nothing and are starting over. The Salvation Army did not come, Red Cross did not come, so they had to struggle to find food. People are sleeping in cars, on the floor, anywhere that is dry and warm. It is so bad, persons are telling me they want to go home. Many of them said they want to go back to Haiti, but do not have the money to buy the ticket. They want to leave because they have nowhere to sleep, nothing to eat and nothing to wear. It is not good here for them.”
Mr St Louis also said a lot of the residents do not have money to renew their permits or do not have permits at all and since they are being evicted by the landlords, they are trying to find money to go back home.
He is asking members of the public to donate whatever they can to assist these people.
“If God is in your heart, you will help these people, you can call me at 426-7414 or drop the items off at Gospel Assembly Church on Minnie Street. We need everything, please help them out,” Mr St Louis said.
Senior Social Services staff could not be reached for comment up to press time, but in a statement released yesterday morning, but dated Tuesday, July 23, the Department said it had assigned a team of officers to the area and established a base in a nearby church.
“Social Workers are currently conducting assessments to determine needs and the level of assistance required and working with non-governmental agencies in the provision of emergency relief,” the statement said.
It confirmed that Great Commission Ministries provided a meal for the residents on Tuesday and that the Red Cross provided food parcels, but did not specify what assistance was planned for yesterday.