SOCIAL Services Minister Frankie Campbell.
By LEANDRA ROLLE
SOCIAL Services Minister Frankie Campbell said yesterday the government is looking at various housing alternatives for displaced hurricane victims as shelters are set to close at the end of this month.
“There are former employers that we’re talking to who may want to assist us with taking their former employees to help them with the clean-up process,” he said.
“There may be some persons who have families in different islands who are willing to take them in with some assistance from social services. So, there are a number of alternatives that are being examined.
“I can’t say that we have the alternative housing ready and available, but we are examining all possibilities, which also include transitioning some persons even to islands that they would not have come from and from islands necessarily that have not been affected (by Dorian)... But, (we want) to give as much assistance as we can to ensure that some level of normalcy is returned.”
The Kendal GL Isaacs Gymnasium, among other sites, has been housing storm victims since Hurricane Dorian displaced thousands of residents from Abaco and Grand Bahama in early September. Only two shelters on New Providence now remain open, and last month Mr Campbell revealed the government is hoping to have those shelters deactivated before the holidays and help storm victims transition back home.
However, in an interview with The Tribune on Sunday, Chairman of Disaster and Reconstruction Committee John-Michael Clarke noted the government’s family relief centre will not be fully complete until March 2020.
The temporary housing initiative, which is expected to accommodate some 1,000 people, was established by the government in late September to assist displaced families, after Hurricane Dorian ravaged Abaco and Grand Bahama.
According to Mr Clarke, 40 of the government’s 250 dome structures in Abaco are expected be open to displaced families before or by early January.
“(And) by March, those 250 domes should be fully installed and that’s provided that the manufacturer of those domes is able to meet their timelines because they’ve given us certain timelines as well,” he added.
However, it is still unclear which persons will be given top priority to live in the domes.
Speaking on the matter yesterday, Mr Campbell said: “I’m not privy to the information about how many domes may or may not be available. However, we are looking to assist persons who can help us find alternatives (for housing).
“Shelters has always been somewhere where you go when it starts to rain and a day or two afterwards, you go back to your home. So, this is not what any of us had in mind so the sooner we can resolve this would be better both for (shelter residents) and for the persons who are looking after (the shelters),” he said.
As of November 24, there were 585 people reported by Social Services Department to be living in shelters in New Providence, with 457 in Kendal GL Isaacs Gym and 128 at Bahamas Academy.
By having all shelters closed by the end of this year, Mr Campbell suggested that it will allow for shelter victims to return to a life of normalcy.
“We’re giving housing assistance and we’ve increased the value of rental assistance that we give to persons who were affected by the storm compared to what we gave in the past. We’re giving as much assistance as we can to ensure that some level of normalcy is returned,” he continued.
“We’re just trying and hoping that we can bring about the kind of change and transition that enable us to address certain needs without having to have persons in the shelters.”
Mr Campbell could not reveal, however, how much money will be spent by the government to help victims as they return home.