PORT OF SPAIN –– Chris Rambhal, whose family was given a house by the Housing Development Corporation on Christmas Eve, says contrary to his wife’s complaints on TV6 on Wednesday night, he had no problem with the location of the home.
Rambhal chastised his wife, Neesha Wattley, for telling TV6 News that she wanted to be relocated as the HDC house at Eden Gardens, Freeport, was too far away from the children’s school in Chaguanas.
“I don’t know why she would say something like that when I had done tell her that I done make arrangements with my partner to drop the children to school,” Rambhal told the Express.
“I have no problem with the place. Is she who talk to the media and tell them those things, but I didn’t agree with it. I talk to she last night and tell she that she was wrong to say that. She not even supposed to talk about that,” Rambhal said.
He added:“It doesn’t matter what they give we. Once we get a place and it comfortable it good. It could be quite down Erin or deep south, we will make it work,” he said.
Rambhal admitted that to travel from Eden Gardens to drop his children to school in Chaguanas is a bit costly but said he will ensure that they get there.
“I am the father of the children and I will make sure they go to school and everything. Is like $9 a head from here to Chaguanas. But I had done talk to one of my partners already who say he would have come and pick them up on mornings and carry them to school so I didn’t really have that problem,” he said.
Asked if his wife may have been scared about the major change in her living conditions, hence the reason for her statements on TV6 on Wednesday night, Rambhal said:
“Maybe. Because it’s a new place and it’s in a different area so obviously your spirit everything will change. But she shouldn’t get on so.”
“Is not that we not safe. I real safe because it’s a residential area and it have security. People can’t just come through the gate just so. The security have to know if you’re living there or not. I feel very safe.”
On Christmas Eve, the family of six were not only presented with the keys to their new home but were told that thanks to some corporate benefactors, their rent will be covered for the next three years to allow them to “get on their feet”.
Courts (Unicomer) also provided a voucher to cover some initial furniture while Directv Caribbean provided a pre-paid kit which allowed the family to enjoy some home entertainment during the Christmas time.
Rambhal said his four children love their new home and are excited about getting their own beds.
“I went on Courts yesterday to purchase some items for the place- bed, fridge, stove, washing machine. They will be even more happy when they get their own bed and their own TV,” he added.
Housing Minister Randall Mitchell has responded to an appeal for guidance by the poverty-stricken family presented with a Christmas gift of a Housing Development Corporation (HDC) housing unit in Freeport on Christmas Eve.
Vendors Neesha Wattley, 26, her husband Chris Rambhal, 28, and their four children, who were living in a makeshift shack on a riverbank were expected to move into their new home at Eden Gardens for Christmas.
But Wattley claimed in the TV6 report that it was impossible to take her children to school as public transportation was not accessible in the community. And she threatened to return to her one-room shack if the authorities failed to respond.
Wattley said she was not ungrateful for the new home, but needed guidance on how to live in the community.
But Mitchell noted that the HDC did consider the challenges the family would face with the move. However, he said there were no available units near Chaguanas, where the couple’s children were attending school.
Mitchell said a decision was made to deliver a home to the family who was “dirt poor”. He said the couple and their four young children lived in a one-room shack with an earthen floor on a riverbank.
Mitchell said: “We must understand that the first problem was severe poverty. The Ministry of Housing made an intervention into this family’s living conditions. We provided safe and affordable housing to improve the standard of living. We knew at that time that there would be challenges as their main problem was poverty.”
He said a decision was taken to have HDC social workers remain in contact with the family until they were settle into their new home, as they would be faced with more challenges.
“They were taken out of those circumstances and placed into vastly improved circumstances. We knew they would encounter more challenges. The family would now have to be educated and given guidance on how to live in the new community. The mother would have to be taught how to use appliances, how to read an electricity bill, how to budget for her family. And that was what we intended to do,” he said.
Mitchell said the social workers would sit with the family and help to work out their challenges, including how to get their children to and from school.
He said a social worker from the Ministry of Social Development would also be assigned to the case.
“What I saw on television last night was someone who is now encountering some challenges as a consequence of moving from that makeshift house on the riverbank to Eden Gardens, Freeport. She is now faced with these challenges and that is the reaction. We have empathy with the family and would continue with our intervention effort to transition and fully integrate the family into the new circumstances to turn around their lives and thrive,” he said.
Mitchell said the HDC would continue to reach out to the family and assist. However, should Wattley decide to return to her home on the riverbank, he said, there was a provision in the contractual agreement for early termination.
At the key distribution ceremony, Unicomer Courts presented the family with a voucher of credit to furnish the house and Directv gave them a television.
A corporate citizen has also offered to pay the family’s rent for three years.