By twinning investigative journalism with reporting on development stimulated some very interesting perspectives from regional reporters assembled for the event.
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Homeless mother demands HDC house
Junior Minister in the Ministry of the People and Social Development Vernella Alleyne-Toppin is denying claims by a pregnant homeless mother of two, Selika Jacob, that she has been abandoned by the ministry’s social services. Speaking to the Guardian by phone yesterday morning, Alleyne-Toppin said Jacob refused to accept the assistance offered to her. “We put her in a shelter to get her off the streets but she left it,” Alleyne-Toppin said.
“She refused to take up our offer of the three months’ rental programme, saying no landlords would accept her under those circumstances.” The minister’s response came one day after Jacob’s plight was highlighted by this newspaper. Alleyne-Toppin said Jacob was reluctant to accept the help offered because she wanted a Housing Development Corporation house.
“She said she wants a house and nothing else,” said Alleyne-Toppin. “I offered her the moon and stars—there was even a lawyer that offered her a place to stay, as well—and she refused.” Alleyne-Toppin said in addition to being provided with food for herself and milk for her baby at the shelter, Jacob was also given a food card the day she was relocated. “The first day I met Selika, when we relocated her, we gave her a food card. While she was at the shelter all her needs were being met, so we assumed she would not need another card.”
She said Jacob never told her she was leaving the shelter nor her reasons for doing so. “She did not let us know she was leaving, I only found out two days ago,” she said. “I tried very hard to please Selika, but she kept sending me messages saying she would go back to the media if she cannot get a house.” Alleyne-Toppin said she had the forms Jacob signed to receive the food card and offered to fax a copy to the Guardian office as proof.
In a story published on August 14, Jacob complained that after almost two months she had not found a place to call home. She claimed that Alleyne-Toppin was not responding to her calls or texts. Jacob said she left the shelter after an argument with another occupant whom she accused of stealing milk for her 13-month-old child. She had been living in an abandoned house at Ste Madeleine with her two daughters and another family when the newspaper first reported on her situation two months ago.