For three years Lionel Inniss lived in squalid conditions at Fustic Village, St Lucy with little more than rodents and pests for company.
The old, dilapidated rented house which he called home was a disaster waiting to happen, with rotting boards and galvanize posing a danger to life and limb, and adding to the lack of sanitary facilities.
His living condition got even worse over the past week when what was left of the building collapsed, leaving the 74-year-old Inniss to seek shelter among the rubble, under a torn tarpaulin.
The National Assistance Board (NAB) came to his rescue today, after a concerned neighbour called to complain.
“It isn’t easy. Look at this. Who would think somebody live here? As he goes out of there, let them call the bulldozer and push that from there,” the neighbour said in reference to the run-down lodging.
“He don’t have no toilet or anything like that and all that stench blowing all over the place.”
The woman told Barbados TODAY the landlord had tried to evict Inniss and had wanted to do repairs, but the elderly man had nowhere to go. Therefore, she said, the landlord had stopped accepting rent.
NAB Chairman David Durant said it was painful to see the condition in which Inniss lived, adding that it was “no condition for an elderly man to be living under”.
Durant, a Government Senator, told Barbados TODAY the NAB had no record of the elderly man’s situation, but after visiting him this morning, the necessary arrangements were made and Inniss was moved late this evening.
“He was not reluctant to move at all. We took him to have a bath and get a change of clothes and a check-up at the doctor. We stayed with him all day because we could not leave seeing him like that. It was really disheartening to see,” he said.
“We need to make sure that we facilitate older people in this season of their lives. They’re human and can’t be left out in the cold like that.”
Durant said it would appear that Inniss had no close relatives, with the exception of an elderly sister who was unable to assist.
He was also full of praise for the neighbour who rang to plead for assistance for the 74-year-old man.
“I’m glad that a neighbour cared enough to make a call and get some help for him. That’s why I want for us to be more community oriented, more community spirited because wherever you see situations like this it’s important to call. Call the right authorities, don’t just call any and everybody and then don’t get any help.
“We want to make everyone as comfortable as possible in Barbados. We don’t want to see people living in this kind of extreme situation. His hygiene was getting worse because there are no sanitary facilities around here. He was exposed to serious harm and danger by galvanize, boards, rodents and so on,” Durant stressed.
While the NAB might not have known of Inniss’ plight, Minister of Housing and Member of Parliament for the area Denis Kellman was made aware of the situation a long time ago and had been asked to assist, according to neighbours.
In fact, one woman who frequently visits a former co-worker in the area, said Kellman should have done more to rescue his constituent from the squalor.
She said she was moved to tears when she first saw the man’s living conditions and had encouraged the neighbours to seek help for Inniss.
“I cry water out my eyes when I see this here. Mr Kellman as an MP should be doing more to help him. He could only keep noise in the House of Assembly it seems. He should be shame,” she said.
However, while addressing the Estimates debate in the Lower House today, Kellman said a land dispute was the cause of the state of disrepair
“. . . one would get the impression that the Government wasn’t doing anything for this gentleman. It just so happens that he was renting the house from the landlord and the landlord was not desirous of selling him. Because had the landlord sold him the land, it meant that he would have made the fifth person [on the land] and automatically it would have turned into a tenantry. We have to be very careful because sometimes we do social programmes and they can create more social problems,” Kellman said.