Following the death of 17 year-old Kyrique Boyce, who fell 100 feet into a well on Thursday in his Pine neighbourhood, a long-standing community activist is calling for an end to the cycle of prioritising the concerns of “poorer” communities only after tragedy strikes.
According to head of the Pinelands Creative Workshop, Rodney Grant, yesterday’s incident was the sad manifestation of an example of neglect of the National Housing Corporation (NHC) units in that community by successive governments.
Grant, who was the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) candidate for St Michael South East in the last general election, made it clear that he was not blaming the current Barbados Labour Party (BLP) Government for the state of affairs at the housing units, as this culture of “neglecting low-income communities” did not begin last year.
Yesterday, residents of the Pine openly voiced frustration and anger, charging that the death of the teen could have been avoided, had the NHC heeded their months of pleadings to have the cover to the well in question fixed. This morning a crew from the NHC was dispatched to fix the issue, hours after rescue workers pulled Boyce’s lifeless body from the hole.
“It seems that we always like to respond after the fact and that is the sad fact. After the tragedy, we show up with all of the workmen and try to do all of the corrective work. Before, we do all of the official walkthroughs and we see the problems, but we never follow through until disaster strikes,” said Grant.
He further argued, “I have always said that communities like the Pine are always neglected in more ways than one and the fact is that we cannot continue to neglect these low-income communities that are already struggling. People are suffering because they are already under severe social and economic stress and then you can’t get a response from these social agencies that are supposed to be ensuring that you have a basic, decent standard of living.”
Grant told Barbados TODAY that the housing units have turned into a slum, as the structures have been allowed to deteriorate to the point where many of them have become fire and health hazards.
“The Pine is the oldest national housing project and it has two NHC depots in it, the large one down Pine Road and the other in Factory Avenue. Yet you can’t get anything done. The next thing that we are going to have is a serious fire outbreak because they have left these units to rust, they are falling apart and some people tell you that when they turn on their pipes they get [an electric] shock. The housing estate is in disrepair,” Grant stressed.
He argued that during this period of economic recovery, it was especially critical for Government to assist in the improvement of living standards for those at the bottom of the economic and social ladder.
“Now that we are having economic challenges, we cannot ignore the plight of those at the bottom because if we are facing economic challenges, those at the bottom are going to feel it the most. This means that they are going to be unable to do the basic things for themselves. You can’t have a NHC telling these people to repair things themselves during an economic crisis. You can’t be serious,” he said.
The community activist further noted, “I really don’t understand where the priorities are. These things should be priority because we are talking about human beings and these people require the same type of investment as anybody in any other part of society. So, we have to create some kind of balance for development, economic progress and social progress.” [email protected]