Heyliger: Housing crisis beyond acute

Formateur Member of Parliament (MP) Theo Heyliger and his team met with St. Maarten Development Fund (SMDF) officials in his continued consultations leading up to the formation of a new government for the country. SMDF Managing Director Keith Franca shared with Heyliger the work of SMDF’s non-governmental organization clients and their pivotal roles in the country’s development. Heyliger, who leads the United Democrats, was also briefed on SMDF’s Elderly Project and the timeline to complete repairs to 110 homes of the elderly as part of its efforts to support St. Maarten’s recovery. Franca reiterated the need for housing, psychosocial support for residents and economic stimulus that would create jobs. Heyliger thanked SMDF for its work, particularly its elderly home repair project. From left: Heyliger, his team members Dreena Lopes and former MP Tamara Leonard with Makhicia Brooks and Franca of SMDF.

PHILIPSBURG–St. Maarten’s already dire housing shortage pre-Hurricane Irma has now become “beyond acute in the aftermath of the worst hurricane in history,” said United Democrats leader Member of Parliament (MP) Theo Heyliger.

Following Irma in September 2017, Government and associated agencies recorded more than 3,000 requests for help with housing repairs. Of those, 400 were from elderly people, and physically and mentally challenged persons.

“We are a virtually homeless population when you look at what our people faced before that monster called Irma hit into us and what we are enduring now. There has never been a time where St. Maarten’s housing crisis has been so crystal clear,” Heyliger said on Wednesday.

White and Yellow Cross Foundation has helped 70 people with private funds and St. Maarten Development Fund has helped 20 people. “So that’s 90 people out of 3,000 roofless, wall-less mass-huddled under blue tarps or making do at a family member’s home or at neighbour’s house,” said Heyliger.

“That amount is smaller than a drop in the sea of St. Maarten’s housing needs. Worse yet, there appears to be insufficient coordination among the projects aimed at rebuilding homes. If there is coordination, red tape and more red tape must have everything wrapped up in bureaucracy,” Heyliger said.

Via the Dutch Recovery Fund and others, White and Yellow Cross Foundation, Red Cross, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and St. Maarten Development Foundation have received some US $7 million for rebuild homes.

Heyliger met with several of those organisations and others in his role as formateur for the new government. “The priorities highlighted by every group and individual I have met with are the same: urgent need for housing and more funds to make this happen,” he said.

“The need for more funding for housing, both to rebuild homes and to construct new, better built, storm-ready affordable homes, cannot be emphasised enough. The people of St. Maarten need assistance and need this fast. The days to the next hurricane season are ticking away and the level of stress, fear and worry are increasing with the start and end of each day.”

Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/75321-heyliger-housing-crisis-beyond-acute