By YOURI KEMP
The New Providence Community Church (NPCC) has started a job placement initiative to help find work for Hurricane Dorian victims temporarily housed at New Providence shelters.
Walter Ferguson, the initiative's co-ordinator, told Tribune Business it had already enjoyed some success within its first week by placing three people who were in the emergency shelter at the Kendall Isaacs gymnasium with Musha Cay, the private island in the Exumas that is owned by world-famous illusionist, David Copperfield.
Mr Ferguson said this epitomised what the initiative is trying to achieve, adding that the trio "will receive free housing, free food and a paycheck". He emphasised: "That's what they need."
The co-ordinator is now talking to other businesses pledging similar help, after the New Providence Community Church realised that Dorian victims need help in not only finding work but housing.
Mr Ferguson expressed concerns that those impacted by the category five storm could easily become stuck in hurricane shelters for an extended period of time, and that food supplies will ultimately be insufficient to sustain them given the demand from the storm-hit islands.
"The food stored will not be enough to last the people in the shelters," he said. "In fact, we only have enough food on hand in our storage facilities to feed ten people for the year. We can only really pull these people up with jobs and housing support."
Mr Ferguson is visiting the various New Providence shelters, particularly the Kendall Isaacs gymnasium, in order to pre-screen potential job candidates - particularly those ready to take work now and move out of the shelters.
He added that he has another three jobs lined up to be matched with potential applicants, and Mr Ferguson said he wants to "encourage as many companies as possible to include temporary housing support when thinking about choosing to hire someone from the temporary shelters".
"No one can live in Abaco any more the way it is, and it may take anywhere from six months to a year before the government can arrange for even a subdivision to be built that can house persons held up at the hurricane shelters around New Providence," Mr Ferguson said. "People in shelters have a new normal, and need special and focused help.
"We want people to pull themselves up by the bootstraps, but this is clearly not realistic at this time, and this is an extraordinary circumstance that calls for us to help people more intensively than we have before."
Mr Ferguson suggested that the government provide incentives to spur businesses to help more persons in these shelters. He said he wants to place 20 to 30 persons in jobs before the end of the month, and keep going until everyone in the shelters who wants to be employed and receive housing support receives this.
Mr Ferguson added that he has been working closely with the Department of Social Services, which is helping him hand out the New Providence Community Church's basic pre-screening job application.