By LEANDRA ROLLE
WITH all shelters in New Providence expected to be deactivated by the end of the year, some storm victims are expressing uncertainty about where they will go next.
Stacy Roberts, from Dundas Town, Abaco, said after living at Kendal GL Isaacs Gym for some two months, she is ready to return home. But as a result of Hurricane Dorian, Ms Roberts said she has no home to go back to in Abaco.
When asked where she will go once the shelters are closed, she said the future is uncertain for her. “I don’t have nowhere to go. Once I have my water and power, I could go back (to) Abaco, but right now I don’t have any place to stay in Abaco. I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to stay in Nassau because Nassau just ain’t my speed,” she said.
“Life is stressful here. I’m not used to being around too many people (in these shelters), I’m used to my privacy. I’m not used to children making noise around my head when I’m sleeping at night. They tiefin’ your stuff, they tiefiin’ your phone. I need to get adjusted. It’s just stressful staying here.”
The gymnasium, among other sites, has been housing storm victims since Hurricane Dorian displaced thousands of residents from Abaco and Grand Bahama in early September, however the facilities have since dwindled to just two sites.
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.
However, Minister of Social Services Frankie Campbell confirmed to reporters on Monday 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.
But, for many storm victims who plan to return to Abaco after the shelters are closed, there is still the uncertainty of finding work on the storm-damaged island. “Abaco only have job for man and not for woman and that’s not for every man too because some man don’t want to do dirty work,” said one male Abaco evacuee, who did not want to be identified. “Only dirty work there now. Only clean and clean and not everyone want to do that.
“And how I see people living in here (at the gym) nobody can’t live like that for next couple months. It too bad and people can’t sleep.”
Sita Sillian, an Abaco evacuee, also expressed uncertainty when she spoke to this newspaper. She said: “What is the (government) going to do with us once we leave? If the government gone send us back to Abaco, I will go. I want to go home, but I don’t have no money to rent in Abaco and I can’t find no place to stay.”
Added to these list of concerns is the fear facing those storm victims who are undocumented, living in the shelters.
“Some inside (the shelters) have documents, but some do not have none. What happen to people who don’t have no work permit, no document? It don’t make sense to take people just like that, who lost everyone and send them to Haiti,” said one shelter victim, who wanted to remain anonymous.
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 said on Monday.
However, other Minnis administration officials have said all undocumented migrants will face the repercussions of the law, meaning arrest and deportation, if they are found whether they are storm victims or not.
To help storm victims transition back home, Mr Campbell said the Ministry of Social Services will provide assistance with transportation and rent.
However, it is unclear of how much money will be spent by the government to help victims as they return home.
The government previously announced plans for a $6m family relief centre on Abaco. The first shipment of domes that will make up the family relief centre recently arrived on that island, according to reports. The domes are capable of withstanding 180mph to 200mph winds. The area will accommodate 250 domes and about 1,000 people.