We had no choice.
That is the cry of squatters in Rock Hall, St. Phillip, who say overwhelming poverty pushed them to the swiftly growing community.
They were responding to Barbadians who have frowned at Government’s promise to assist them and others who view their situation lightly. Many told Barbados TODAY the land has shielded them from homelessness.
Reena Applewaithe, who moved into Rock Hall two years ago, said after the death of her husband in 2014, she fell into dire financial difficulty while struggling to make ends meet for herself and her four children.
“It’s really hard and there is a lot of arguing and cussing… ” she told Barbados TODAY.
“Most of the people who come here, couldn’t afford a home and some people can’t afford to pay rent. I am a widow and I felt like there was no way out. Most of the people that are here have come here because they are very poor; they have no way out and have nowhere to live,” she expained.
The Guyanese national who has been living in Barbados from age 20 said she was not opposed to moving out of the area, but said in the meantime, she was trying to give her family the best life she could.
“I was just trying to clean up the yard so the babies could play. I was planting some spinach and I was trying to ‘do’ my bathroom in concrete because I don’t have a bathroom and I spent money on the material but it was left halfway. So I don’t know if to continue [the bathroom], finish the fence or keep planting,” she said.
“When I think about the mud and how shaky my house is, and the way that we are struggling with the light and the water, I am thinking maybe I don’t mind moving. It might be better, because I would be able to put up the house a bit better and maybe I could get concrete, some light and water.”
“My life was hard,” said Winston Greaves, who has been living at Rock Hall for 13 years.
“I was going from place to place with my boys and this place was a relief for my boys and me and now they are 22 and 23. So it was a breakthrough in life for all of us up here.”
In fact, Greaves, a carpenter who builds for “low income” Barbadians has questioned why Rock Hall appears to be the only location where squatters are being scrutinised.
“This was a breakthrough for people, so I don’t understand why every year it is Rock Hall and there are squatters all across Barbados.”
When questioned about Prime Minister Mia Mottley’s promise to facilitate alternative housing solutions, the carpenter, who has erected a two-storey structure, said he was willing to pay for his piece of Rock Hall and is not keen on moving.
“I don’t want to live on it for free. I want to pay for it and stay on it. I don’t want to move and go anywhere. I am happy here, because this is where my boys were raised up,” he said, while also acknowledging the health concerns raised by PM Mottley.
“Children don’t get sick out here. My boys and other children were raised out here and they haven’t gotten sick… There is no sickness out here,” he argued.
The illegal “development” is made up of some families who have occupied the land just east of the Grantley Adams International Airport for over 20 years. Others have been there for mere months. While some are content with modest chattel structures, others have started erecting expansive properties.
Charmaine Darlington, who has been living in her home for 20 years with her ‘other half’ and their four children, told Barbados TODAY she was living in a “shanty” and contending with less than ideal conditions.
“Our family was getting bigger because we already had two children and another was on the way. The space was small and we needed a little more room to accommodate the family. My boyfriend learned there was a place up here where people were setting up houses.
“The situation was bad on us and we just took the opportunity. We didn’t want to come and if there was somewhere else, we would have chosen that place,” she said, while indicating she would be willing to move, “if it came to that”.
Another longtime resident told Barbados TODAY she moved to the area amid problems at home and after having her first child.
Of the ongoing discussion about the development, she said: “Regardless of whether it is something negative or positive, people are going to talk. Until you are in the situation we are in, you will never know. We are living it everyday. I come here to do what I had to do and I guess everybody did what he or she had to do as well,” she said.