It may be a new year but for residents of White Hill, St Andrew it is the same old sad story of land slippage, an impassible main road and mounting frustration.
Having long reached the end of the proverbial tether, they now believe only a change of Government will usher in relief.
“If elections don’t call I don’t know what will happen to White Hill. We can’t wait until the elections date is called. Elections are the only way right now that we see ease because nothing has been done for us after three years,” Carlitha Andrews, the reputed spokesperson for the rural community told Barbados TODAY.
“This is so personal and hurting to us that there are people in this community who have never voted and they can’t wait to vote now because of this condition . . . . Living in White Hill is so inhumane.”
Following heavy rains in November 2014, the main access road leading into the disaster-prone village was officially condemned due to land slippage. Large cracks have also appeared in a temporary road that was constructed in the rural community.
Residents have been pleading since with the authorities to put them out of their misery and virtual isolation, but the situation has only been getting worse.
Andrews told Barbados TODAY the deteriorating makeshift road was dangerous and a major cause for concern.
“The track that was put in place is getting impassable. Soon from now we won’t be able to go up there. It’s full of trees and there is no lighting. As a woman walking down there at night somebody could get rape. It is dangerous; even as a man you can be robbed. Our lives are consistently put in danger. It is only God’s mercy that the people up here still remain sane,” she lamented.
Government announced in November last year that it would relocate 22 houses to Farmers, St Thomas, with a view to ending all housing settlement in the problem-plagued section of the Scotland District.
However, the community had met the announcement with derision, saying it was nothing more than an election gimmick.
Although Minister of Housing Denis Kellman had reacted with surprise, saying, “I don’t deal with election gimmicks when it comes to people’s lives”, Andrews said the fact that nothing has happened since proved the people’s point.
“Move and go where?” she asked. “We don’t live in match boxes that you can just take up and move in your hand. Nobody was moved. We need a town hall meeting to find out when Mr Kellman [intends to begin] and let us know which is the 22 houses that will be moved. We might be desperate but we are not stupid. To relocate is like you starting over again. There is no land available. We are poor people, we can’t go and buy the land for $60 and $70 [per square foot]. We can’t but it.”
In last November’s announcement, which came in a press release from the Barbados Government Information Service, the housing ministry said the next phase of the relocations, which began in 1999, would involve the transfer of the 22 houses, with five new houses due to be constructed this financial year and another seven in 2018.
In response to the residents’ dismissal of the promise, Kellman had also assured Barbados TODAY that work had already started on the resettlement project, adding that “by next [this] year, we should be finished that phase that we put out the press release on”.
“I find it rather shocking that something so easy to understand, somebody would call it a gimmick. We are actually dealing with the issue, so . . . I’m surprised at a comment like that. We are working on the project and soon will complete it,” he insisted.
However, with no apparent signs of progress since, Suzanne Jemmott, who operates a corner shop in the community, told Barbados TODAY plans to relocate only 22 homes made little sense.
“Nobody has been moved, everyone of us still here in White Hill. Nobody has moved a muscle; no action took place. We are looking at over 80 houses so I don’t know when or how it is going to happen,” Jemmott said, adding that their only hope lay in the general election due this year.
“The election is the only glimmer of hope we have. It is just a lot of promises. I mean there are promises from both sides. We can just hope and pray that something happens because life is very hard.”
She added that while her business was not severely impacted over the festive season, “it is still hard on me trying to get the stuff home”.
“I am hoping for the best. I am just hurting, but nothing is happening.”
Another person who lives abroad, and who requested anonymity, told Barbados TODAY he was worried about his aging mother who resides in the district.
“My mother live here and she is getting down [in age]. That is foolishness to have my mum go through this. There is no one else in the family that can take her around. When I’m gone for nine months she has no help,” he said.