SOCIAL Services Minister Frankie Campbell.
By LEANDRA ROLLE
WITH fewer than 600 people living in shelters throughout New Providence post-Hurricane Dorian, Minister of Social Services Frankie Campbell confirmed yesterday that the government is hoping to have those shelters closed by the end of the year.
“From day one, we wanted to deactivate shelters as soon as practicably possible…we see numbers in our shelters decreasing to the point where I think it is now less than 600,” he said. “We’re hoping that by the end of the year before the holidays that we could have all of those persons successfully transitioned back to an environment that they’re familiar with, to an environment where they’re comfortable with and to be in a position to help further clean up and restore and bring back normalcy.”
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.
But some Bahamians have been calling for the government to clear out the gym and other shelters of undocumented immigrants. A little over a week ago, a group of outraged protesters, called Operation Sovereign Bahamas, demonstrated at the Kendal GL Isaacs Gym, demanding that undocumented Haitian migrants be sent home.
As it relates to those shelter victims who are undocumented, Mr Campbell said his ministry will continue to meet the humanitarian needs of each storm-affected individual.
“There is talk of what other ministries with other responsibilities have to do, but of course we will collaborate and cooperate but our focus from day one is to ensure that all humanitarian needs are met and extended to those who come to and, of course, are in our shelters… that is our focus as a ministry,” he added.
By having all shelters closed by the end of this year, Mr Campbell said it will also allow for social workers to return to a life of normalcy.
“Dorian brought on an unexpected and unimaginable strain that we had to respond to while continuing to respond to our everyday clients. My staff has been working overtime. The Urban Renewal staff has supplemented with some of their personnel from the various centres,” he told reporters yesterday.
“Even our staff who themselves are victims of the ravage of Dorian are still on the frontline giving assistance. So, that is another reason why the sooner we’re able to deactivate those shelters and successfully transition those persons, our staff can go and attend to their personal lives and bring some normalcy to their personal lives.”
To help storm victims transition back home, Mr Campbell said the Ministry of Social Services will provide assistance with transportation and rent.
“We’re partnering with the Red Cross and other organisations who is going to be helping us with furniture. We’ve already initiated the uniform assistance for school-aged children that were affected (by Hurricane Dorian) and, of course, the food assistance is a given that will continue,” he continued.
However, it is unclear of how much money will be spent by the government to help victims as they return home.
“I can’t speak to a specific figure, but I can say that millions have been set aside and if the need arises, the government of The Bahamas will have to find more to answer to the needs of our people,” Mr Campbell said.
On Sunday, the Department of Social Services reported there were 585 people still in shelters in New Providence with 457 in Kendal GL Isaacs Gym and 128 at Bahamas Academy.