House of horror
TWO?ST?ANDREW?SISTERS have been living, sleeping and eating among the rubble of what remains of their White Hill, St Andrew home, which collapsed two months ago because of land slippage.
Sherry-Ann Marshall and her older sister Patsy Lynch, who had to be rescued from the house when it fell backwards, trapping her inside, say they were forced to continue living in the house because they have nowhere to go and help has not been forthcoming.
Representative for St Andrew, Opposition Member of Parliament George Payne, commenting yesterday, termed the situation an “emergency” and expressed outrage that Government had not assisted the sisters with accommodation.
“It is a really sad situation. It has brought tears to my eyes. There has always been a policy in the Ministry of Housing, [in situations] where there is a disaster such as this because of erosion, for Government to assist families by finding accommodation for them at Government’s expense,” Payne said.
Payne said when the house collapsed on June 23, he contacted Minister of Housing Michael Lashley and other Government officials to inform them of the situation.
“I thought that by the next morning [the sisters] would have been moved out, but the only thing the ministry did was to send an officer to give them an affidavit for a $15 000 grant. That would not apply in this particular case because this is an emergency.”
Payne said he had been assisting the sisters, but could not accommodate them at his constituency office because there was no room available.
He charged that the sisters were not getting help because of their perceived “political affiliation”, saying “it is unfair and unconscionable. This is not a caring Government. This is the worst situation I have ever encountered”.
Meanwhile Sherry-Ann, 35, and Patsy, 38, say the collapsed house is providing them with much needed shelter from the elements, even though they realize that they were putting their lives at risk by continuing to live there.
Recalling the frightening experience when the house collapsed, Sherry-Ann said she was in the backyard when she heard a loud noise.
“I had just stepped outside and I was standing by the pipe when I heard a loud noise and when I looked up I saw the roof of the house falling back and the house just crashed to the ground. I started to scream and my sister was screaming because she was inside and she couldn’t get out. The police had to come and rescue her. Luckily she was not hurt,” she explained.
She said most of their furniture was either damaged or buried inside the house but she still continued to cook on the stove even though it was uncomfortable to do so.
“We had nowhere to go, so we were staying outside under the tree but when it started to rain we had to go back into the house even though we are still getting wet.” The sisters have to crawl through the rubble to get in and out of the house.
The disastrous situation almost cost Patsy her job too. She was suspended because she had turned up late too many times.
Sherry-ann, who is unemployed, said she went to the Welfare Department asking for assistance. “They told me to look for a house to rent and they would pay half of the rent but I have not found anything as yet,” she cried.
The young woman explained that she and her sister, along with their brother David, had lived in the house with their parents, both of whom died several years ago.
“When the land started to slip during Tropical Storm Tomas, my brother was put in a one-bedroom house by Government and me and my sister went to live with him for a few months but it caused a lot of confusion with the landlord, and we were asked to leave, so we just moved back home,” Sherry-ann said.
Her brother moved in with a family member, she said.
“This is really hard. It has me stressed out but there is nothing that we can do but hope and pray. Sometimes I just stand outside and when I catch myself I fall asleep standing up because I am not getting enough rest,” she said, adding that George Payne had been providing them with some assistance.
When contacted yesterday, Minister of Housing Michael Lashley said the land slippage situation in the Scotland District had been drawn to his attention by Democratic Labour Party candidate for St Andrew, Irene Sandiford-Garner, and (Barbados Labour Party)?representative for St Joseph Dale Marshall, while he confirmed that he had received written notification from Payne about the sisters’ situation.
He said that construction would soon begin at Farmers, St Thomas, for the relocation of residents affected by land slippage.
He added that the plight of the two sisters was under review by his ministry.