By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
A HAITIAN man who survived Hurricane Dorian in 2019 says the demolition of his newly completed home in The Farm, Abaco, over the weekend has left him homeless and separated from his family-of-three, who are all now fearful of their future on the island.
The former shanty town resident, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told The Tribune he’ll never forget the heartbreaking feeling he experienced while watching construction workers tear his home apart with a bulldozer Saturday morning.
Last month, government officials raided the shanty town and placed signs in English and Creole warning of impending demolitions of illegally constructed buildings.
However, the man claimed yesterday he was caught off guard by Saturday’s exercise, adding that the demolition has not only left him displaced and sleeping in his car, but also separated from his family.
“What the government do wrong is, they could’ve let us know what’s happening,” he told this newspaper.
“First, they come, they put a paper and then after that, they gone and then a month (later) when the guy come and put the number on in my house, then I asked him what they put the number there for and if he did tell me what the number was for then I would’ve known what to do, but when I asked him, he was like he don’t know and he just doing his job and then he gone,” he told this newspaper.
“Now, we have nowhere to stay and nowhere to go. I sleep in my car, but I let my girl and my two kids sleep by a friend because we can’t find no apartment right now.”
Similar sentiments were shared by another displaced resident who told The Tribune on Sunday that recent demolition activities have left him struggling to find shelter for him, his girlfriend and daughter.
According to residents there, about ten occupied structures were destroyed over the weekend.
They also say another ten homes are set to be demolished this week.
“They did five down on Friday and five down on Saturday. They say they taking ten down every week,” the father-of-two said yesterday.
This comes after Works Minister Desmond Bannister said earlier this month that the government would move to the third phase of its plan to demolish structures in The Farm shanty town, which includes destroying structures occupied by people.
Officials have said it’s a move that could impact some 2,000 residents living on Abaco.
Yesterday, the displaced resident said many families impacted by last week’s demolition exercises are experiencing hardship and are also uncertain as to where they will go next.
He added while many knew building in the area was illegal and wrong, they had no other options due to lack of available housing in the area, which has persisted to be an issue since Hurricane Dorian in 2019.
“We located to the Farm because we didn’t get nowhere else to go,” he said. “We couldn’t find no apartment or nothing… so we did buy all the materials (to build the house). I put in all together, almost $7,000.”
However, he watched his hard-earned money go down the drain when his house was destroyed before his eyes.
“When I see that, I was about to cry, but then I just walked away,” he said.
The man said he has been living in this country on a work permit for nine years. Like many others, his home and belongings in the Mud—another shanty town—were destroyed by Dorian nearly two years ago.
Last week, the United Nations’ human rights experts urged the government not to demolish homes in the Farm, calling it a “serious violation of the human right to adequate housing” that will likely result in increased homelessness and extreme poverty.
The UN noted that many people in The Farm were affected by Hurricane Dorian.
However, officials, including Mr Bannister, have already suggested that the government will not be swayed from its plans, arguing the Bahamas is a country of laws that must be upheld.
Mr Bannister went on to say that Bahamians must decide if they want to live in a country like the Bahamas or a country like Haiti where there is “dirt, garbage, shantytowns all over the place.”
On Sunday, Human Rights Bahamas released a statement condemning the government for “continuing to manufacture and perpetuate a humanitarian crisis in Abaco.”
The group said around 40 people, including 16 children, were left homeless after the demolition activities and that “no provision whatsoever” was made for their shelter or safety.