Ann Marie Reedir woke up around 2 am on Sunday and as is customary peeped into her daughter’s room. Only this time Mahadai “Savi” Chatoorgoon was not in her bed.
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Diego family still homeless
After losing their Diego Martin home and belongings to a suspected electrical fire on December 19, the Walters and Turner family is still looking for a new home. Christy Walters, 25, who lived in the upstairs apartment with her brother and a roommate, told the T&T Guardian over the weekend that while calls from the public offering assistance were initially overwhelming, they had now stopped completely. “I expected that, but we still have nowhere to live,” she Walter said.
On the first night after the fire destroyed the six-bedroom home the five family members had rented for about 14 years, Walters said they were forced to split up. Her mother, Marilyn, who works at West Bend Sales, slept on a borrowed mattress on the floor of the company’s storage room. “A friend lent her a mattress,” Christy Walters said. Marilyn, her mother Mary Turner, 83, and brother Lennard Turner Jr, 56, lived in the apartment downstairs.
The fire started around 10 am in Mary’s bedroom, and engulfed the house within ten minutes. None of the occupants were injured. Since then, the family has been bunking at the homes of friends and one other family member. A friend of Christy’s, who is currently abroad, offered his home until his return. “We have one week left to stay there. After that, I really don’t know where we will go. We’re looking,” said Walters, a second-year criminology and psychology undergraduate at the University of the West Indies (UWI).
Walters revealed that on the day she lost her home, she also received some good news from the UWI campus in Jamaica. “On the same day of the fire, at around six, UWI called and said I won the scholarship I applied for months ago. They will cover maintenance costs for the rest of my degree,” she said incredulously, describing the day as a roller coaster of emotions.
She said with this help, accommodation costs for a student apartment at the St Augustine campus would be covered, offering some relief to the displaced family. She is, however, appealing to anyone who has an affordable three- to four-bedroom apartment to reach out to her.
The family’s initial rent for the first few months will be covered by ReThink, an agency which specialises in promoting acts of kindness and paying it forward. A spokesman for the group responded to the initial story published in the T&T Guardian and offered to pay the family’s rent until they got back on their feet. “They simply have to identify a place they would like to stay, we will help with transportation and moving, and cover the cost in the beginning,” he said when contacted to verify the group’s commitment.
He said paying the first couple of months for the family would give them a chance to focus on other needs. “It’s to help give them an ease between now and when they can catch themselves again. This is a dire time for them.” Other needs included furnishing the apartment, Christy said. “We’re not looking for any luxuries, we just want to get situated and settled, then we can focus on bedding, furniture and appliances.”
A home is also needed for the family’s seven dogs who survived the fire. The dogs are being kept temporarily at the T&T Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (TTSPCA) in St James. Christy hopes other dog-lovers would consider giving the pets a new home. They range from ages three to 14. Space is running low, and the dogs must be adopted soon, according to personnel from the TTSPCA. “It’s hard for my mom and grandmother to see them there. We can’t give them a home, but we hope someone else can adopt them.”