For years, Devere Savoury, 26, has been knocking on the doors of government agencies seeking help to rebuild his family home at 1st Avenue, Bird’s River, Deacons Road, St Michael. But his efforts have fallen through the cracks because of owners of the land, a pandemic and a bureaucracy.
Then his father won $25,000 through the lottery last year, and they used some of the money to begin repairing the broken-down house.
Now, the money has run out and the house remains unfinished, said Savoury
He said the family is trapped in its current financial situation because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but with the hurricane season about to arrive, the house is at the mercy of the elements and is not properly secured.
Now he is asking for donations of building materials to finish the repairs that would make it a livable space for him, his father, and two younger siblings.
Savoury told Barbados TODAY: “We would like some help because you know the hurricane season coming in just now and as you can see we are exposed to the elements. If the rain fall too hard it would come through, it leaks, and the rain would wet up the TV and the DVD player and it is really uncomfortable.
“I would like some materials to finish the roof and other parts of the house. The money run out and this is how far we have gotten. So I am here asking for help for my family. From the time I was 18 it was my dream to repair this house.”
One of the doors he knocked on for help was the Urban Development Commission (UDC) whose officials told him that they could not offer any assistance because of the issues surrounding the land ownership.
This land, on which he lived all his life, was owned by Laurel Hinkson, now dead, who was a relative of his grandmother.
Savoury said: “My grandmother took care of her until she passed away and this was like a gift to my grandmother. We were told to get off the land but the only thing that is on our side is time. My father was a teenager when he came here and I raised all of my life here too.
“When I went and check the land tax it hasn’t been paid since 1994 but they [the rightful owners] still have the power. I went to a lawyer and the lawyer told me don’t pay it because if I don’t win the case then I might not be able to get compensate for any money that I have paid out,”
Savoury’s grandmother, too, is now dead, and the inheritors of the land are not willing to give UDC permission to build on the property.
Savoury said he had been informed that it was okay to repair the house once “it is a wooden structure”.
He said: “Some churches said that they would come forward and give us some help but we haven’t seen or hear back anything from them and when I call I don’t get through. So we basically back at square one just asking for help. I don’t know if my Member of Parliament [Neil Rowe] would be able to do it for us, I don’t know if Urban can, I don’t know if a third party can jump in and help us out.”
Savoury worked as a waiter and porter at two different restaurants but is currently jobless because of the pandemic. But he noted that when he was working, he tried his best to continue the repairs. He said he approached financial agencies for loans but was told he did not qualify.
“Every time I get paid I would contribute a siding board, or buy piece of board. I am crying out for some help for me, my father and my little brothers. So if anybody can help us that would be greatly appreciated. We trying but we just need some help to finish. Really and truly if we had gotten the permission for Urban we would have gotten a new house every since,” Savoury said.
Savoury admitted that Rowe has made several attempts to get some assistance for his family.
When contacted, Rowe told Barbados TODAY he was very familiar with the family’s plight and noted that since November 2018 he has been sending letters to UDC requesting urgent assistance for the family.
Rowe also stressed that the family has not yet received assistance from UDC because of legal boundaries. The Member of Parliament said he also sent correspondence to the Ministry of Housing requesting a housing solution for the family but noted that that effort also proved to be unsuccessful.
He said: “I have all of my documents here to support that I have been trying to get UDC to help but the situation always come down to the ownership of the land. And, these are situations that not only me but also other representatives in other constituencies are faced with.
“There are situations where people live on a parcel of land all of their lives, and the grandmother never had no papers for the land but she too has been living there all of her life. We as a Government now has to find a way to work around it without having problems with people coming forward to own the land.
“But I have been trying to empower the same young man because I like the fact that he is a very ambitious young man. I will continue try to help.”
The backbench MP told Barbados TODAY that next week he would make yet another attempt to ask UDC to review Savoury’s files to see if anything can be done to help the family’s plight.
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