Why did housing authorities not recognize that nobody squats for the love of it

Dear Editor,

Red Thread is in solidarity with the women, children and men who are squatting in Sophia.

On Monday, October 16, 2017, a group of Sophia residents staged a picket demonstration outside the Ministry of Communities on Brickdam, to express their outrage about the manner in which their  homes had been destroyed  by agents of the ministry, leaving families with young children, even a heavily  pregnant mother on the street. Several homes had been broken by the time humanity prevailed and the demolition operation stopped. The persons whose homes were not destroyed were told that they had twenty-one days to move or as one of the agents said, they  will have their own experience of “ Hurricane Irma”.

On the picket line protestors chanted: “Where we must live? On the street? Where pregnant mothers must live? On the street? Where single parents must live?  On the street? Where children must live? On the street?  What we want? Land!”

One of the protesting residents met with a housing representative and reported that he was told the following :

  • that no more structures will be broken.
  • those who have not yet applied for  a house lot  should do so immediately.
  • those who have already applied should present their documents.

Why could the housing authorities not recognize that most of the people affected are squatting because they have no other options? Surely a policy against squatting cannot mean that the poor are made poorer by having all their material possessions damaged and destroyed as punishment? Could alternative locations not have been identified before the cruelty of the demolition operation?

Nobody squats for the love of it.  As one of the residents said, “You think I like how I living?  You think I like how me children living between two trenches? This is not what I want for me and my children but I aint gat no other choice right now.”

People are desperate for a spot to build. Some are working and their salaries or wages are not enough to pay house rent much less eat.

We call on the Government of Guyana, the Minister of Communities, the Central Housing and Planning Authority and all the relevant agencies to listen and get in touch with the reality of the lives of the residents of Sophia who are squatting. Listen to the voice of the grassroots:

  • “They giving we twenty-one days to move, where we going? If we had somewhere to go we wouldn’t be here in the first place. They want I move and they aint even know if I gat a $1000 in me pocket much less to pay a horse cart.”
  • “I apply for a piece a land since 1997 and I still waiting … These people cruel, they come in here and ruthlessly destroy people things. Who paying them back?”
  • “People struggling to survive and this is how they gon treat we?”
  • “The poor lady, nine children she gat and all of them in school. She is a single parent, she gat to pay school bus, feed them, provide for them, she gone out to work for a honest dollar only to come back and meet everything damage. What she suppose to do? What she suppose to tell them children?  Where they suppose to go? Ow man, this is cruelty.”
  • “We need land. If we get access to land, we wouldn’t squat. We aint looking for big fancy house, all we want is a shelter for we and we children”.

Poor people make up the larger portion of the population.  Sophia is just one of the many areas with squatting issues. Like we said before, nobody wants to live like this. It is not poor people’s fault that poverty exists, so don’t penalize poor people further for being poor.

Poor people have the right to survive!  Poor people want the right to good education and health care, jobs, a living income, affordable housing. Poor people want the right to the promised good life.

Yours faithfully,

Bibi Halima Khan

Joy Marcus

Susan Collymore

Wintress White

Vanessa Ross

Joycelyn Bacchus

Red Thread

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