The Kendal GL Isaacs gym, where hurricane refugees have taken shelter after being evacuated from Abaco and Grand Bahama, pictured in September. Photo: Terrel W Carey Sr/Tribune Staff
By RIEL MAJOR
Tribune Staff Reporter
AFTER one month of living in shelters, many evacuees are struggling to restart their lives.
Speaking to The Tribune on the grounds of the Kendal G L Isaacs Gymnasium yesterday, Arolz Joseph, an Abaco evacuee, said he’s tired of living in the shelter.
“Tomorrow will make a month I’ve been living here,” he said. “I tried to find a job, but I haven’t found a job in Nassau. Someone called me to come back to Abaco, but I have nowhere to stay.
“I want to go back to Abaco, I don’t like Nassau. I don’t know nothing about Nassau and if I live in Nassau, I have plenty to learn because I don’t know nothing. My wife and my children are in the shelter and tired too.”
Mr Joseph said his family is sad, but they still thank God for life.
“We lost everything, but I can’t kill myself because we lost everything we had,” he said. “I have to give thanks because we still have life.”
A mother-of-two, who wanted to be identified as Ms Jean, said she has been overthinking and stressed about her next move. She is hunting for a job, but hasn’t had any luck yet.
“Since I’ve been here, I just was thinking and stress out wondering what I will do next,” Ms Jean said. “I would prefer to go back to Abaco because I don’t like it here. I’d rather move to Exuma or Eleuthera until Abaco is rebuilt. But I’ve been on two interviews and I haven’t gotten any call backs yet.”
She said the living conditions in the shelter are good, but she hates the food and living in a place with so many people.
“I’m not comfortable living with so many people. I’m not used to be around this many people, and I don’t enjoy the food. I don’t like the type of food they feed us. We never had a big meal like rice and chicken, I haven’t had any sensible meals. They give us hotdog and rice or mackerel with rice,” Ms Jean said.
“Whenever someone comes to see me, they bring me something to eat. The food isn’t good, they give us water and we never get juice. Actually, I haven’t eaten the food for two weeks now because every time I eat it, it gives me a stomach-ache or I (vomit). But, once my kids eat, I’m okay…sometimes I go the day without eating and drink water.”
Meanwhile another evacuee who only gave her name as Ms Gray said some residents living in the shelter are “selfish” and accused them of hoarding donated clothes.
The mother-of-one said: “People in there have more than five bags full of clothes but they still won’t let other people get. Like right now I haven’t got any clothes and I’ve been here from the sixth (of last month). People are so selfish; they get clothes and even if they can’t fit, they still won’t give it to you.
“They still would take it and you would think they would grab two or three pieces of clothing and leave some for the rest who don’t have. They carry all the good stuff and leave the not so good stuff for everyone else.”
Still Ms Gray said “it doesn’t matter” where she lives, she just wants to restart her life.
She said: “I really need a job and it don’t matter where I live because if I go back Abaco, I don’t get no place to go back to. If I find a job here, I’d start life here until Abaco catch back up and I’ll just go back. I want a job, but I also don’t know where to look.
“Everywhere over here, they need a resumé. I don’t have a resumé or references. I don’t have nobody to do these things for me.”
According to an update from the National Emergency Management Agency yesterday, there are 913 evacuees in nine New Providence shelters. The Ascension Anglican Church is also housing five evacuees, for a total of 918 people in emergency shelters.
Last month, Works Director Melanie Roach said 51 percent of residences in assessed Abaco communities sustained major damage from Hurricane Dorian, with nearly half of them not salvageable.
Her revelation about damage to homes in Spring City and Central Pines, both government subdivisions, came as she revealed results of the government’s initial assessment of buildings in Grand Bahama and Abaco.
Works Minister Desmond Bannister has indicated that officials still have thousands more structures to assess.