With her home maliciously destroyed and her job shutdown, 57-year-old Ashlyn Williams now spends her night sleeping outside the San Fernando East Constituency Office.
When Guardian Media visited Williams at the office along Navet Road, Mon Repos, around 10 pm on Thursday, the CEPEP worker was pulling a sheet for cover. The nights are so cold that she doubles her clothes.
Williams said that up to April, she lived on Jadoo Street. However, one of her neighbours tried forcing her out by cutting down her fruit trees. Her resistance ended when the man demolished her home. Despite reporting the incident to the authorities, she never got any redress.
Her mother died in 1999, her father in 2005 and her son in 2012. She has no other family around to help her.
“It went from one extreme to the next, and now I have nobody. I am a single woman. When they broke down at my house, I went to the Mon Repos Police Station. Mon Repos police told me it was some neighbour to neighbour something and that I have to go Harris Promenade or something to that extent,” Williams said.
With the constituency office in her community, Williams went there seeking help. She spoke to an employee who said they would visit the ruins of her home to take photographs. In the meantime, she slept at different homes for as long as she could, even sleeping in an 86-year-old woman’s “wash house.” When there was nowhere else to stay, she slept on Harris Promenade.
“I was on the promenade, but they moved everyone off the promenade. It is a running around and hiding with this curfew because I was usually down in the back by NIB.”
Williams said she returned to the constituency office and met another employee, who took her number and promised to handle her case. By that time, she had nowhere to stay.
She told the employee: “I will have to move in here because I have nowhere else to stay. I do not want to be out there in the streets because it is not safe, and I feel safe here because I am under cameras. I have been sleeping here three or four nights now, and you know, I am going to sleep here until I get somewhere to go.”
For the past few months, she has been withdrawing money from the bank to purchase food as she roams the area, hoping to pass the time. She said she was down to her last $25, and last week, she attended the wake of a villager just to get food.
Williams said when the MP Brian Manning was distributing hampers recently, she tried speaking to him, but he told her that he could not talk at the time.
Contacted yesterday, Manning said it was the first time he or his staff heard that Williams was sleeping outside his office. He said the office closes at 5 pm and there was no one around after that.
“I spoke with the office staff, and they said they have been working with the individual. They were familiar with her, and they will do all that they can to assist her. We understand that the needs in the constituency are great, especially during this economic downturn due to the COVID virus, and we are doing all that we can to assist those who require assistance,” Manning said.