~ Says it is not an eviction ~
SUCKER GARDEN–Dr. J Foundation said in press release on Thursday that it is not forty families who will need housing when the Sucker Garden shelter closes at the end of the month, but 33 people. It also said it is erroneous to call it an “eviction.”
The Hurricane Irma Re-integration Temporary Shelter Programme (HIRPS) was established by the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour VSA in collaboration with Dr. J Foundation in 2018. The shelter is managed by Dr. J Foundation. The programme was established as a two-year programme and is fully financed by government.
“The aim of this programme was to provide temporary living arrangements, support, the necessary assistance and guidance for the persons misplaced by Hurricane Irma that would have otherwise been homeless. The objective of this programme is to assist and to empower the residents as they regain their sense of independence,” said Dr. J Foundation in a press release on Thursday.
The foundation said a team of social workers and psychologists worked closely with residents, assisting them in looking for jobs, preparing résumés and their applications for social services, budgeting, and seeking affordable housing, among other things.
“The programme has been very successful. Since the beginning of the operations and to date a total of 104 persons were admitted to the shelter and have actively participated in the reintegration programme. The majority of these persons have already successfully been reintegrated into the community and in independent living,” said the foundation.
The foundation also said there is no “crisis of 40 families who will be homeless at the closing of HIRPS on November 30.” Instead, it says, the total population of the shelter is 33 persons – 11 children, 15 adults and seven persons living on pension. According to the foundation, this is only six families.
“The number of residents remaining in the shelter continues to decrease as the days go by, as several persons are moving out and into their newly-found apartments.
“All residents knew from the signing of their living agreement and admittance into the shelter that their stay at the shelter was temporary. Since the beginning of August all residents have been receiving letters regarding the upcoming deadline to vacate the shelter.
“Again in October, the residents received letters to remind them and to motivate them towards finding other living arrangements,” said Dr. J Foundation.
The foundation said residents will continue to receive letters regarding finding alternative living arrangements. “We cannot wait until the last minute to remind and motivate persons to be active in finding alternative living arrangements.”
The foundation says it does not intend to put anyone out on the street, “though some residents have become very complacent and unwilling to move to independent living,” and the social workers are still working to find suitable living arrangements for the 33 persons still living in the shelter.
The foundation says the biggest challenge is obtaining affordable housing. “There are currently four families who need two-bedroom apartments, as well as persons in need of one-bedroom apartments. There are still three persons who need assistance with home repairs in terms of building materials and labour. There is also an exit plan in place for the pensioners, where they will transition into other living arrangements.”
The foundation says it is “open for assistance in finding suitable and affordable one- and two-bedroom apartments, as well as building materials for those persons who are still in need … to repair their homes.”
“As the programme is coming to an end, the goal is to continue to work diligently with the remaining residents and to have everyone successfully reintegrated in the community,” concluded Dr. J Foundation.
In the meantime, businessman and number three candidate on the United People’s (UP) Party slate for the upcoming election Omar Ottley said in a separate press release that urgent clarity is needed regarding the persons in the shelter and why they are being asked to leave on November 30.
Ottley raised the issue earlier this week and has since been provided with new information that he claims further confuses the issue. While some have dismissed the issue as “not that urgent” or “exaggerated”, he said he had approached the owner of the shelter/building himself in an attempt to help after the worried persons involved approached him.
“I scheduled a meeting with the owner of the shelter/building to see if he would consider an extension and give government a little extra time to plan. The persons received a letter on October 25, 2019, informing them that the shelter will be closed by November 30, 2019,” said Ottley.
Ottley said he was surprised when the owner informed him that he was not responsible for the removal and that the contract is not up until next year. “He himself was in awe and confused as to why the persons were asked to leave the shelter by November 30.”
Ottley added that the owner had indicated that he would reach out to Dr. J Foundation to gain some clarity.