Three senior prison officers have been suspended from all duties from the Port-of-Spain State Prison, Frederick Street, in relation to the July 24 jailbreak.
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3 desperate moms camp outside HDC hoping for homes
Three desperate single mothers and their six children occupied the doorsteps of the Housing Development Corporation’s head office, South Quay, Port-of-Spain, yesterday, in the hope that authorities there would provide them each with a home. The three mothers arrived at the office at 1 am yesterday. At 5 am, when security staff arrived, they were allowed to wait inside. But when the office was opened to the public, they reassumed their position on the doorstep after being asked to leave. In an interview with the T&T Guardian, Candice Patterson, 22, a mother of two girls, said: “We need help. We need a roof for we children. We struggling and I begging for help for the last three years.”
Patterson produced a letter from the National Family Services Division at the Ministry of Gender, Youth, and Child Development, dated December 13, 2013, and addressed to HDC managing director Jearlean John, which said she needed housing. “Welfare sent letters to Ms Jearlean John pertaining to my situation but no response was made,” she said. Patterson, who lives in San Fernando, said she had no permanent residence and had not slept in days. “I am under people step and stuff sleeping. That is just how it does be,” she said. Patterson said she worked at a casino but was not sure if she still had the job. She said one of her daughters was ”irregular” in school and the other one suffered from bronchiolitis. Lamenting that she had no family, she said: “My mother dead, child father dead, brothers in jail and I don’t know... the uncle I know dead. I really don’t have any family, is only me and my children alone.”
Selika Jacob, 23, the mother of two and eight months pregnant, said she lived in an abandoned house in San Fernando. “I am presently homeless, living in a house that I secure with galvanise and it have no current and no lights.” In the last six months, she said, several letters were sent on her behalf from social welfare to HDC. “Up to now I have not gotten any response. I came here about one this morning and give Jearlean John a letter and she said she cannot make any promises.” One of the letters, dated June 11, 2014, from the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development, indicated Jacob was in need of “emergency” housing accommodation. “This is the third time I’ll be on news and no one is helping. I’m just here to see what sort of action they would take.”
Tamika Johnson, the mother of three children—aged five, two and one—said she was not homeless but if she did not get a home soon, she would be. Also from San Fernando, she said she was fed up of depending on family. “I have family and they know my situation and they not doing anything to help me, so I take a stand today to do something for myself for the betterment of myself and my children.” She said she met Patterson and Jacob at the social welfare office on Wednesday. “Eventually I will reach there in the situation they are and I am here today in support of what they doing for themselves.”
People seeking HDC housing must follow established processes, says Maurisa Findlay, communication manager at HDC. Addressing the three mothers, Findlay said: “We at the HDC cannot say immediately that there is a home waiting. There is a process. The HDC does not have a system that as long as you come here with a need you will immediately be taken care of. “The policy of the HDC is that we examine the situation, we send individuals like these to our social department, they are examined, their details are taken and we work with them to see where possible housing can be made available to them. “Their situation is something that breaks all of our hearts but this is an organisation that operates on the principle of processes.” Saying the HDC was committed to the three mothers, she said she had called several charitable organisations to find a way to provide immediate shelter to the mothers and their children. Findlay said the three mothers were eventually interviewed by the social department and assured their cases would be looked at in more detail.