Ombudsman Gwendolien Mossel presenting the report to Chairperson of Parliament William Marlin.
~ Slow pace of home repair reveals weak social infrastructure ~
PHILIPSBURG–Improving the pace of home repair in the country and reviewing the eligibility criteria for home repair, taking extenuating circumstances into consideration were amongst a list of recommendations Ombudsman Gwendolien Mossel provided in a community outreach report on the progress of home repair in the country post Hurricane Irma.
A copy of the comprehensive report was presented to Chairperson of Parliament William Marlin on Wednesday. Also recommended in the report is the need for proper data gathering and analysis in terms of the population, especially regarding the elderly and other vulnerable persons on which effective planning and policies can be based. “This type of information is vital, particularly in the event of a natural disaster when fast decision-making is necessary.” The report also recommends that there be better controls and coordination by government on (international) organisations executing repair works to ensure the quality of the work carried out; the national ordinance on financial assistance must be reviewed and adjusted to tackle the challenges that persons currently face when transitioning from a temporary shelter/housing back into society; and the need for affordable housing must be addressed with absolute urgency.
The Ombudsman said while this is primarily the task of the St. Maarten Housing Development Foundation (SMHDF), government has an equally important role based on international human rights law, specifically the right to adequate housing.
Earlier this year, Mossel and her team embarked on an initiative to reach out to the public, in particular the most vulnerable in society. Over the past months, with the assistance of community councils, town-hall meetings were held in Dutch Quarter, Philipsburg (Down Street), Cay Hill, South Reward, Belvedere and St. Peters. The objective of the town-hall meetings was twofold: to spread awareness about the institution of the Ombudsman and for persons to share their personal experience relating to roof and home repair as result of the damage caused by Hurricane Irma. Following the town-hall meetings, a number of residents signed up to be interviewed.
The comprehensive report is a culmination of these interviews as well as information received from various stakeholders regarding the various roof and home repair projects.
In the report entitled: “Home Repair. A revelation of a social crisis,” the Ombudsman concludes that the slow pace of home repair reveals and compounds the already weak social infrastructure.
“This was also highlighted by her predecessor and the National Ombudsman of the Netherlands in July of last year. A joint letter was sent to (then) Prime Ministers Leona Romeo-Marlin of St. Maarten and Mark Rutte of the Netherlands expressing concerns regarding the slow pace of the reconstruction,” it was stated in a press release.