After some uproar from residents of Mocha/Arcadia over Broad Street squatters being relocated to their East Bank Demerara community, in a dramatic turn of events last evening, a Barnwell North representative extended open arms to them.
“I want to start by saying to you that I have gotten the blessings from my community to embrace and stand in solidarity with your community. When we embrace you, we’re embracing the government’s plan to eradicate poverty,” Vanessa O Donohue, Chairperson of the Barnwell North Committee stated last evening at the Ketley Primary School in Charlestown.
But Barnwell’s views aren’t necessarily the views of the Mocha/Arcadia Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC) which governs the area, although the NDC’s Chairman did admit that ultimately, the council is there to represent the views of the community members.
“It is not the view of the NDC. We work with procedure,” Rudolph Adams, Chairman of the NDC stated.
Adams, in a telephone interview last night, stated that they consulted with the junior Minister of Communities Valerie Patterson a few days ago, and proposals were made by her in regards to moving forward with the relocation.
“We would have informed her that we would have to take it back to the community and that’s the position as it is right now,” Adams related, noting that in the upcoming week, a meeting will be held with community members to hear their views on the proposal made by the minister.
“It’s just to put it to the community and if they say well they accept it, we have no other choice but to go with it…initially at the meeting, that was established…the community was saying, well okay we can’t accept everybody. The community was saying that, not the council. Remember we represent the community as councillors,” he noted.
Prior to this, residents of Mocha/Arcadia, which is located west of Barnwell North, had not expressed favour with the proposal to move the squatters to their community, and related that there was fear of a crime surge occurring.
“…the whole thing is that the agency would have made a decision unknown to us and it appears that things are going just as how they would have planned it,” Adams opined.
Last evening, scores of residents from Lot 17 and 18 Broad Street, met with representatives from Barnwell North and the Central Housing and Planning Authority. There was one councillor from the NDC present at the meeting.
The interaction involved mainly presentations to the group about what could be expected from their relocation, and opportunities for them to raise any social issues affecting them.
There appeared to be no aversion by the Broad Street residents toward the decision to be relocated, nor was there any opposition shown from the members of the Barnwell community present.
Donnell Bess-Bascom, Senior Community Development Officer of the CH&PA, emphasized that that the ministry’s mandate goes beyond the construction of homes to the creation of resilient and cohesive communities, even as she pointed out that the residents of Broad Street and Barnwell have already begun coming together.
“We have some residents here from Barnwell North…and I’m really excited to know and to understand that Barnwell North has started to meet with Broad Street. This process has developed naturally and we are pleased to see that…it’s really, really, pleasing for us to see what we call social cohesion started already. So when we talk about creating cohesive communities, we are already seeing that glue being formed between the community that’s going into Barnwell and the community that already exists in Barnwell North,” Bascom said.
The area that will accommodate the relocated squatters will facilitate 184 house lots. The houses, which are being sponsored by the CH&PA and Food for the Poor, will be 20×16 feet, on 80×40 feet properties. While they will be constructed “primarily of wood,” the two-bedroom houses will be supported by concrete bases.
The main access road of the community, which is situated linearly, will adjoin the main roads of the surrounding areas. The community will also accommodate three commercial areas, three reserve sites and a space for a multipurpose building.
Bascom stated that while the site for the houses have been identified, the area first needs to be developed, and amenities such as water and electricity supplied to the area. Furthermore, the access roads need to be developed before FFTP can begin construction on the lots.
She related that the contract for the roads has already been signed, but the CH&PA is working through some “challenges” expressed by the NDC before they proceed.
When asked last evening what were the challenges expressed by the NDC, Adams said that it was in relation to existing roads being damaged by heavy trucks during the construction of adjoining road networks. He said that he was told that in cases like those the roads would be repaired.
Once the road begins, it should be completed within six weeks, he said, but related that FFTP can begin construction of the houses as early as three weeks’ into the period specified on the contract for the building of the access road.
The construction of the first set of houses should be finished within two months after commencement.
In the interim, Bascom related that the CH&PA will be hosting mini workshop sessions for the residents, with support from the Ministry of Public health and other agencies, on topics such as public health standards, building standards (in terms of extensions, etc), and youth and domestic violence.