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Family living in container pleads for help to get house
With downcast eyes Louisa James struggled to maintain her pride yesterday, as she pleaded for help for her seven children, who are forced to live in a cramped and rotting container on the old Ste Madeleine trainline in south Trinidad. The family moved into the windowless 20-feet container at 97A Cipero Railway line in 2004, after their home was destroyed in a mysterious fire.
Since then they have had to endure inhumane conditions. Whenever it rains, the container floods and in sunny weather it becomes a sweltering hot box. The only ventilation is the door, which remains open day and night. During an interview yesterday, James said some of her children—Iker, 13, Ily, 12, Joshua, 10, and nine-year-old Joanna were ashamed of their deplorable living conditions and were often teased by classmates at school.
The container stands opposite the Ste Madeleine Secondary School where Iker is a Form Three pupil. “It is tough for my daughter Iker because she always comes first in test so other students pick on her. They tell her she is trailer trash because her mother lives in a trailer. She feels ashamed about it and last term her grades dropped because of this,” James said.
Her younger children attend the Ste Madeleine Government Primary School. James said another one of her daughters, Mikeba Evelyn, 17, had to drop out of the Pleasantville Secondary Comprehensive because she could not afford to pay her taxi fares.
“I try to make ends meet. I get public assistance for three of the children and I work as a Cepep labourer, but sometimes things are just too tough. We will be happy if only we can get a proper home,” James said. She said the trainline did not have proper drainage and during excessive rainfall, snakes, centipedes and other vermin crawled into the container, especially during the floods.
“I am scared for my children. The road and drains are poor and my children get sick with the cold,” James said. She added that Ily, who suffers with asthma, often has to be sent away to stay with friends and family. “The container is stagnant and we cannot breathe properly. My daughter has asthma and she gets sick. It worries me that my daughter has to sleep by other people,” James said.
She also admitted to getting electricity from her neighbour. James said because the container was dark and cold, she had no other choice. “I cannot get electricity because of the conditions here, but the children have to study,” James said. She said she was put on an emergency list to receive a proper house from the Ministry of Housing. Under the Patrick Manning government, James said she was also promised an apartment but it never materialised.
“When I last called HDC they said they would help me but I am still waiting,” James said. Contacted yesterday, Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal said he would arrange to provide assistance to the family. Anyone wanting to help can call James at 398-8850.
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