Single mother of three Nekiesha Stanley says she has been overwhelmed by calls and offers of help in the past 24 hours following publication of her plight in the Express.
Stanley later told the Express yesterday she was interviewed by the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) for emergency housing via telephone yesterday and was told to bring relevant documents to the corporation’s Couva office today.
Although she was not promised a quick resolution, she was told the sooner the process begins, the faster she can be placed into a home.
Meanwhile, however, she fears she may have no choice but to return to an abandoned HDC unit in Tarodale, San Fernando, where she and her three young children have been sleeping for the past few months.
Stanley told the Express on Tuesday that she was evicted from an apartment earlier this year after losing her job as a cleaner due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The 23-year-old and her three children have since gone without enough food and access to basic goods, braving nights at the abandoned unit.
On most days ,she stays at the small apartment of a friend where her family has access to plumbing, food and electricity. At nightfall, the family moves to the unit to sleep, using blankets as a mattress on the floor of the dilapidated building.
“If my friend doesn’t give us some food, then we have nothing. Then we just have to go without. Things are bad right now. At night, we have to go into the abandoned building and stay because there is no place at my friend’s house. Sometimes you will hear bullets; you never know what will happen at any time,” she said.
According to Stanley, minutes after the article featuring her plight went live on the Express website on Tuesday evening, she received multiple calls from those sympathising with her situation.
The calls continued into yesterday morning, with many offers of financial aid.
‘I’m so grateful’
“It started late last night (Tuesday) and it is ongoing. Someone offered to send US$1,000, another offered US$500; some people offered clothing and milk and pampers for the children. I got a call from a furniture store offering some furniture if I could get a place. People have been so kind and I am so grateful to everyone,” she said.
Stanley and her children were to return to the structure last night. With the publication of her whereabouts, she said she is now concerned for her safety.
“We have to go back, but I am afraid seeing that the whole world knows where I am now,” she said.
Responding to Stanley’s story, Member of Parliament for the area Brian Manning said yesterday that attempts were made through his office to give hampers and assistance to the family.
“I have had several conversations with Ms Stanley and she has been in regular contact with the constituency office. We have been trying to help her and others like her. We will continue to assist and respond to the story in due course,” he said in a text message yesterday morning.
The San Fernando East constituency office later contacted the Express to say it was unaware of the family sleeping in the abandoned building.
A release from the constituency office said Stanley was told to apply through the Ministry of Social Development for aid.
“We have maintained close communication with her and as our records show, up to this week, our staff had been working on all of her requests. The young woman in question has also been encouraged to apply for extended food and rental support through the programmes available at the Ministry of Social Development while the constituency office attempts to find employment opportunities for her, given her specific requests,” the release added.
The release went on to say a team from the office and the Ministry of Social Development was scheduled to visit the family yesterday. A request for an HDC unit, it said, was made in September and being dealt with by the Ministry of Social Development.
One hamper can’t last a lifetime
However, according to Stanley, her contact with the constituency office was never met with any updates on behalf of HDC or the Ministry of Social Development. She said one hamper was given to her through the office in September.
Attempts to discredit her, she said, were disappointing.
“Yes, they gave me a hamper, but surely they didn’t expect one hamper to last a lifetime. My concern was really a place to stay because even with food, we don’t have a roof over our heads,” she said.
“They were supposed to be helping me. When I asked them on multiple occasions about HDC, they never said they had any kind of response from them. How can they say that I am not staying in the building? I go there every night alone with my children. I go when it is dark and I come back during the day, so there is no one that can pass and say that no one is dwelling there. This is very frustrating,” she said.
The Express yesterday contacted the HDC to ask if Stanley is eligible for emergency housing.
The HDC responded, saying it sympathised with her situation, but added a process must be adhered to. Assistance is provided based on certain criteria considered on an individual basis, it added.
“The HDC has noted the cover story of today’s Express newspaper and sympathises with Ms Stanley’s situation. However, it must be noted that while special consideration is given to persons who require the State’s assistance based on their critical circumstances, there is a process and there are associated criteria.
“Further, applications for special consideration for housing are considered on an individual basis, and submission of an application doesn’t equate with an immediate allocation.
“Not everyone who is assessed can be immediately allocated, and that is due in part to the limited availability of ‘emergency’ houses and the number of similar cases, already receiving consideration,” said the HDC.
It added, “The HDC is aware that the Social Welfare department of the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services provides a number of grants. Given the remit of that ministry, individuals in urgent need can often receive more immediate assistance that is better suited to their specific needs from the suite of grants and services available.”