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Help coming for evicted squatters

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

THE Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) and Food for the Poor have offered to assist the approximately 60 squatters who were evicted from a private property on Duke Street, Kingston last Friday.

The ODPEM, which has offered to provide the homeless with tents to be used as shelter, portable sanitary conveniences and collapsible water storage containers, said it recognised the plight of the evicted citizens and would, in association with the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation's Parish Disaster Committee and member of Parliament, ensure that the basic temporary relief is provided.

At the same time, the charity organisation, Food for the Poor, has promised to provide housing for the evicted squatters.

A team from the organisation on Monday visited the site at 118 Duke Street where a team of bailiff last week demolished several shacks and evicted the illegal occupants.

"As part of efforts to help the evicted persons Food for the Poor has visited the area and listed the names of persons who were affected during the operation," Junior Reid, field officer for Food for the Poor told the Jamaica Observer.

Reid said the organisation was moving urgently to provide assistance to those persons who owned lands and could provide proof, or for those who could get access to lands, with the permission from the owners, so shelter could be provided for them.

On Monday, West Kingston Member of Parliament Desmond McKenzie appealed to members of the public to provide whatever assistance they could to the displaced residents.

He said that with the commitment from Food for the Poor to provide housing the next step was to find lands for some of the persons evicted.

"What we are doing now is trying our best now I have a team already out on the road looking in various areas in the constituency where we can find lands," McKenzie told the Observer.

The MP said he would also be seeking a meeting with officials from the Child Development Agency (CDA) to discuss concern raised by some of the evicted persons.

McKenzie said he received a report that representatives from the CDA visited the property on Duke Street on Sunday night and threatened to remove the children from the location.

He said he would be seeking a meeting with the CDA officials to discuss the concerns of his displaced constituents as he wanted to promote dialogue between the agency and the affected persons. He made it clear, however, that he understood the concerns of the CDA with regards to the affected children.

A CDA official has since refuted the claim made by the residents.

"We are not here first and foremost to remove any children but if it is that there are children who are destitute and the parents have nowhere for them to go then we are bounded by law to find somewhere for these children," said the CDA's Robert Williams.

The CDA, in a release, said that proactive steps had begun and efforts made to assess the situation impacting children and families who were displaced.

The CDA said that team members visited the location on Sunday to carry out a rapid assessment and to engage families present on major areas of concern. This activity, it said, continued on Monday morning.

Director of children and family programmes, Audrey Budhi indicated that as part of its response mechanisms the agency has identified 30 spaces for boys and 12 to house girls within its child care facilities in the South East Region which can be mobilised to meet the need for shelter for the children on a short-term basis.

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