A year and a half after being told they would be given land and proper homes, residents of the Lombard and Broad streets, Charlestown squatting area are still waiting for the promise to come to fruition.
For now, they remain on the plot of land at Lombard and Broad streets, which is owned by a private citizen.
Initially, it was announced that 49 families would be relocated and that some $43 million was to be spent for the construction of 72 homes, while $30 million was to be spent on infrastructure development. Food for the Poor was also expected to inject $43 million into the development project.
A recent visit to the squatting area found that the population within the area has increased compared to when initial visits were made in 2016 and 2017.
Residents are not pleased with the lack of progress in the relocation plan. “Them ain’t telling we nothing, but wah we could do? We got to live and we waiting,” one of them stated.
“We just here normal, ’cause we still gah live, so we gah stay right here until the time reach. Everybody does wan go pon them own but you can’t go on yuh own and you ain’t get nowhere to go,” another resident, who identified herself as Amanda, added.
Resident Phillip Chase told Sunday Stabroek that a few residents were called into CH&PA on January 9 and told that they would be relocated to another village along the East Bank of Demerara. Chase said that he and other residents were told that there would be an upcoming expo in April of 2019, and those who would be able to afford to pay for homes, valued around $4,000,000, would be given those homes.
“Everything is still in process but what they say is some people who working, they got a exhibition coming up, if they could afford the four million dollar property that they gon be issuing. So who could afford it could get them,” Chase explained.
“Food for the Poor still have the finance for the project but if tomorrow housing ready, they would be ready too. Food for the Poor is ready to build. The owner for the land—according to what aunty Volda [Minister Volda Lawrence] said, is that the government ask for time for the court give the time until they can move we, then they gon get the land. When the moving start, everybody will be moving, nobody will be staying here. The owner for the land will get back the land, so they won’t be no other squatting on the land,” Chase further stated.
He and other residents believe that the progress of the move is being stalled due to
the slow work being done by the CH&PA.
According to them, the move has been in the works since the APNU+AFC coalition entered office.
While the population has grown significantly, overcrowding and garbage disposal seems to be some of the other issues that affect the persons residing in the squatting area. The last mayor had promised to provide a waste disposal system for the area but that did not happen.
“What happen is Monday and Friday the truck does pass right, but for the past couple weeks they not passing. We had to put some garbage in the middle of the road to let them come and move it,” said Chase.
The man gave an average of the population of the squatting area to be about 200 persons. He opined that the garbage will build up. He and other residents are willing to approach the newly appointed mayor for assistance in creating a schedule where garbage from the area can be picked up on a regular basis.
While conditions within the squatting area have improved, residents, however, remain hopeful that their relocation will take place sooner rather than later, so they can have a better life.
On July 31st, 2017, residents were told that they would be moved to Barnwell North in Mocha, however, the relocation plan, which was being facilitated by the Central Housing & Planning Authority (CH&PA), did not come to fruition, as it was later revealed that the land was unsuitable for the relocation due to the condition of the soil.
Initially, the CH&PA and the Mocha-Arcadia Neighborhood Democratic Council (NDC) been at odds over the relocation after the latter learned about the plan through the media. This had led to the residents of the Lombard Street squatting area protesting outside of the Mocha Arcadia NDC in October of 2017, asking to be welcomed to the community.
Almost a year ago, CH&PA Chief Executive Officer Lelon Saul had announced that with the land identified at Barnwell being deemed unsuitable for the move, the agency was looking to relocate the squatters to Cummings Lodge, Greater Georgetown.
“Barnwell was deemed an inappropriate location because of the soil condition there. Additionally… his Excellency the President has asked that we put that project on hold pending the outcome of the [Commission of Inquiry] into ancestral lands. Notwithstanding the request of the president, we have deemed the location inappropriate and we have decided to look for another location,” he said last February.