By NICO SCAVELLA
RESIDENTS of a shanty town in the Carmichael Road area of New Providence yesterday had their homes bulldozed by contractors hired by the Ministry of Environmental Health following eviction notices given residents over a month ago.
The occupants of “The Yard” on Faith Avenue north were given eviction notices on August 1 and had 14 days to “vacate the property”. The Tribune obtained a copy of the eviction letter given to the shanty town residents.
However, one resident of the area said they had complained to the landowner to give them more time to vacate and relocate. That time ran out yesterday.
When The Tribune arrived at the shanty town, a significant portion of the village had already been cleared, leaving behind only heaps of rubble. The debris was being loaded onto a dump truck to be carried to the city dump.
According to one of the operators, officials from the Department of Environmental Health gave them orders to demolish the village.
However, he said, as some persons were still in the process of relocating, their homes and belongings would be spared only until that process had been completed.
Residents looked on helplessly as the heavy machinery ripped through the wooden structures that they had called home. Some could even be heard above the noise of the tractor’s engine voicing their displeasure with what was happening.
“It’s really unspeakable because it’s not everyone who has somewhere to go, so it’s really harsh,” said a resident, a 15-year-old girl. “I feel sad because it isn’t everyone who could have the money to go rent apartments or find someone to pay their rent. Times are really hard now. So you have to find money to pay first and last deposit, and find money each month to pay for that house. Not everybody is working to say they could find the money to pay that.”
According to a woman resident, on August 1 an unidentified man entered “The Yard” and issued eviction notices to everyone in the village.
A copy of the notice, issued by law firm C A Dorsett & Co read: “The owner of the property hereby gives all occupants a final notice to vacate the property within 14 days. The demolition is scheduled to commence on Saturday, August 15, 2014 at 8am. All structures on the property and any personal items remaining on the property will be destroyed and transported to the city dump. This serves as a final notice. Be guided accordingly.”
The letter was signed by “C Alexander Dorsett”. Housing and Environment Minister Kendred Dorsett and the Department of Environmental Health were copied on the letter.
When The Tribune visited the village last month, a number of the houses were intact, but some had been destroyed. At that time, many of the existing homes were vacant and most of the empty ones had numbers spray painted on the walls.
One resident explained that the houses with numbers on the walls had previously been marked by government inspectors as houses unfit for dwelling, and were to be demolished in any event.
She said that on issuance of the eviction notices, many people left the village, some seeking refuge in the Family Islands and others going back to Haiti. Others opted to disassemble and transport pieces of their wooden houses to live in other areas in New Providence.
Residents with nowhere to go and no resources to relocate either moved in with other neighbours or occupied the houses previously utilised by former residents, she said.
Preparations to demolish “The Yard” began in July, when the government cut and cleared down the high bushes and shrubbery that concealed the shanty town from passing motorists on the Sir Milo Butler Highway.
Mr Dorsett said the area had become a concern for public health officials and would be a focus of “clean-up” and “elimination.” He also said the government was at the time trying to determine whether the land was privately owned or land that belonged to the government.
When The Tribune contacted C A Dorsett and Co, an employee said lawyer Alexander Dorsett had confirmed that the land had been privately owned for the last 50 years.
Mr Dorsett would not say who the unidentified man was who reportedly visited the shanty town or reveal his client’s name.
According to Leonard Miller, Director of Environmental Health Services, Mr Dorsett plans to make an announcement on the status of shanty towns within the next week.