Squatters get more time to move from foot of Highway 2000Thursday, November 18, 2021
BY HORACE MILLS
LINSTEAD, St Catherine — The National Road Operating and Constructing Company (NROCC) said it is helping to seek humanitarian assistance for a family that has been served notice to vacate the public agency's land near Linstead Fire Station in this parish.
Based on an eviction notice served on October 2, Natalie Hutchinson and her 13 relatives, children among them, were given 30 days to leave the property they occupy illegally.
At the expiration of the ultimatum a week ago, child protection services went to the location and took seven minors into State care. Six of those are Hutchinson's children and the other is her granddaughter.
Since then the adult family members, who previously said they have nowhere else to go, have intensified efforts to find alternative living arrangements.
They claimed that NROCC has given a new date, December 10, for them to pull down the wooden structures and leave the land.
However, newly appointed managing director of NROCC, Stephen Edwards, told the Jamaica Observer Tuesday evening that the agency did not formally give the family an extension.
However, he noted that NROCC is allowing all occupants of the land more time to relocate.
“NROCC has written to a number of Government agencies seeking assistance for the family and, although we can't say much about that right now, we are hopeful that a solution will be found in short order. The situation [regarding vacation of the property] is still urgent,” said Edwards.
The wooden house, in which Hutchinson and the minors live, was built with help from a United States-based philanthropist Rebecca Stewart.
However, NROCC said it did not give permission for the construction to take place. The St Catherine Municipal Corporation also stated that it did not approve the project.
According to NROCC, it is concerned about the family's safety, considering that the house was built at the foot of a section of Highway 2000. The entity added that the construction has undermined the integrity of the highway.
“The structure of the highway itself is damaged and we are concerned about that. As soon as a solution is found and the persons are relocated, we will have to do some remedial work to fix the structure of the highway,” Edwards told the Observer.
In the meantime, Hutchinson appeared in the St Catherine Parish Court on November 12 in relation to the minors who are still in State care. The children were also brought to the hearing.
The matter will again be mentioned next month, Hutchinson said.