We just want to be comfortable ...Persons living in St Thomas sugar barracks demand promised homes
The living conditions of Alphonso Dixon, an 84-year-old retired sugar worker, epitomise the substandard situation that residents living in sugar barracks in Golden Grove, St Thomas, have had to face for years, despite promises of proper housing.
Dixon’s over 100-year-old house looks the part. It has no flooring, as it was swept away by recent flooding in the area. His mattress and scant furniture are propped up by a few boards, which make navigating the small room a treacherous task for the elderly man.
To make matters worse for Dixon, when it rains, it pours on him and his belongings because of the gaps in the walls and roof.
“Mi can’t waste no money again fi fix up this,” the elderly pensioner explained. “That’s why me a beg them fi hurry up and finish the house them promise we,” Dixon said in reference to the Sugar Barracks Relocation Project.
Under that project, persons still living in sugar barracks in St Thomas, Clarendon, Westmoreland, and Trelawny would get new homes courtesy of the European Union, with support from the Government. It is expected to be implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.
The St Thomas division was initially scheduled to take 10 months to complete since the announcement was made in 2012. Fast Forward four years, and the residents are perplexed as to why they have not yet moved into their promised homes.
Residents told THE WEEKEND STAR they are waiting in unbearable misery, and are uncertain of how much more they can take.
Simone Dunn, 28, explained that the pit latrines accompanying their home has been a source of constant infections for her and other females.
“The doctor dem say each time me sit down on the toilet, the heat that comes off the filth goes up in me and cause the infection,” she said.
“So more while, me just do mi business in a bag and sail it across the cane field. Mi can’t do no better.”
Fifty-year-old breast cancer survivor, Joan Morris, told THE WEEKEND STAR that more than 13 of her neighbours have died within the last four years waiting for their houses, and she does not want to add to that number.
“A one titty me have, and a five teeth dem take outta me head at Public [hospital] yesterday. Mi shoulda have me house fi go lay down inna and be comfortable. Mi want me house,” Morris demanded.
When THE WEEKEND STAR visited Stokes Hall and Hampton Court where the residents are to be relocated, the housing units were erected and fitted with windows and doors, expect for some that seem to have been raided.
THE WEEKEND STAR learnt that crooks have been stealing the windows and doors from the houses.
A guard who was recently hired to watch over the premises explained that thieves keep them busy.
“From the house dem build up, the thief dem a come, so that’s why they had to hire us. We have to patrol at nights, and sometimes we catch the thief dem, and they have to run leave the doors and windows in the bush. But a nuh every time we catch dem,” the security personnel said.
A representative from the Ministry of Agriculture told THE WEEKEND STAR that various issues affecting the housing project have been noted, and Agriculture Minister Karl Samuda will be speaking to those and the date for the handing over of the houses soon.