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Blind see red over HDC houses
Dozens of visually impaired people walked along Coffee Street, San Fernando, in protest yesterday, claiming discrimination by managing director of the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) Jearlean John. Chanting “Tell the Prime Minister, tell Moonilal, tell Jearlean John what we need is houses,” some called on John to vacate her position at the HDC. They accused her of ignoring Government’s promise to allocate five percent of HDC houses to the elderly and physically challenged.
Manager of the San Fernando Blind Welfare Association Deonarine Ragoo also called on Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal to address their concerns. Last December, Government allocated 500 houses to successful applicants. However, Ragoo said, not one visually impaired person from south or central Trinidad had received a unit. Forty members of the association had applied for houses before 2007, he said, but were still waiting to be a given a house.
Ragoo added: “We were informed that out applications were sent to the allocation section and I have made several calls to that department to inquire why the process was not moving. “I was told that they were waiting on instructions from Ms Jearlean John and the minister.” He said it was typical government bureaucracy that had disabled people suffering in their unfortunate living conditions.
“Blind people should be treated with some urgency, because we are people here who are really in desperate situations,” Deonarine said. In an interview, John said the HDC went beyond government’s five per cent allocation to accommodate people with special needs. She said the association must realise “disabled” did not only mean visually impaired, but also people with amputations, mental conditions and other ailments.
John added, “Even if you look at last December’s allocation, two people who were visually impaired were given housing units. HDC goes way and beyond the decision by Government to allocate five per cent of houses to help people with special cases.” However, Deonarine said those suffering were people south of the Caroni River. Replying to this, John said: “I can’t get into these arguments.
“The point is, this man does not work inside HDC to know that the majority of new housing communities are in Chaguanas and down South. Not only people of Port-of-Spain get houses.” The protesters said they were aggrieved by the lack of speed in awarding them houses, especially since in October 2011, Minister of the People and Social Development Dr Glenn Ramadharsingh promised to assist the visually impaired community of south Trinidad in obtaining state housing.
San Fernando mother of two Simone Charles said she had been allocated a house in Corinth, Ste Madeleine, in 2007. However, she said, while waiting to be given the keys to her new home, she received a letter from the HDC saying her application was being reassessed. Charles who suffers from congenital glaucoma, said because she lived in a drug-infested area at Rushworth Street, San Fernando, her 17-year-old son has become a drug addict and her 11-year-old son has to stay with a caretaker in Pleasantville.
She also showed a letter from the Mortgage Finance Company (TTMF) which said she qualified for a maximum loan of $151,300 with a monthly mortgage payment of $641 for 25 years.
Mayaro resident Curtis Wells said he has to travel every day to San Fernando to work at the Blind Welfare Association’s office and almost half of his earnings were spent on transport. He said for over 14 years he has been trying to get a government house in San Fernando so he could be closer to work and could spend more time with his teenage children.
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