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Baby Angelica needs a home
Single and unemployed, it has now been two weeks since Deomatie Baal and her 11-month-old daughter Angelica Ramadhin were left homeless by a fire that ravaged their humble home along Wilson Road, Penal.
It’s now a daily struggle for Baal, 24, to ensure Angelica sleeps in the safety and comfort of a home, so the mother begs for refuge at church members’ homes. But with time running out, Baal fears she may soon lose Angelica if she does not find a place to live soon.
Angelica will celebrate her first birthday on May 2 and while Baal would have preferred to celebrate it with cake and ice cream, the struggle to find a home is her priority.
During a visit with her mother to the T&T Guardian’s south office, Angelica cheerfully mingled with office staff, oblivious to the struggle.
“I’ve lost my home, I can’t lose my daughter too. Right now I’m staying by different people at different times,” Baal said.
On the night of the fire, Baal said she and Angelica were at her parents’ home in Penal. Around 10.30 pm on April 9, a fire officer called with the heart-breaking news that her home was gone.
“I couldn’t do anything because I was in a state of shock. Then I just started crying and screaming because I didn’t know what to do.”
Hoping the officers had made a mistake she contacted relatives, who went to check the house and confirmed the bad news. Frozen with the fear of an uncertain future, Baal said she did not return home until the Tuesday morning.
“Everything was burnt down to the ground. There was only burnt wood, window frames and the metal from the appliances I just bought. Do you know how hard it is to spend so much money to purchase appliances and after five months, it is gone?”
Baal said she had worked at the Prize Band Variety Store in Debe until she got pregnant with Angelica. However, Angelica’s father left after she was born, leaving her to take care of the baby on her own. Without a job, she cannot afford daycare as of now. She explained that the house she had lived for the past six years was without electricity until last year. From the money she saved while working, she purchased appliances to make life easier for her new family. However, it is all gone.
Baal said she has approached the Ministry of Social Development but was told she was a squatter on the land. She has since visited the National Commission for Self Help and was given a list of documents she needed to access a grant. However, one of the requirements was a deed of comfort. She said without a deed she can’t access any government grants to rebuild her home
“They asked if I had ever applied to get the land and I told them yes, but everything was burnt in the house. I went back to the Land Settlement Agency, but the receptionist told me that the Land for the Landless programme had ended.
“She told me to write a letter to someone to see if I can get a deed of comfort so I can go back to Self Help to get it from there. I don’t know if I will get the deed because when I went there was some debate as to whether it was State land or forest reserve,” Baal said.
On October 10, Government terminated the Land For The Landless (LFTL) programme, which was created under the People’s Partnership. Former housing and urban development minister Randall Mitchell had told the Parliament of several flaws in the programmes, which included beneficiaries signing agreements for land without deposits. The LFTF was replaced by the Aided Self-Help Housing Programme, which is geared to assisting low/middle-income earners with the construction of their own homes by providing financial and technical support from the state.
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