The trinidad Guardian / Good Samaritans yesterday stepped in to assist Erica Joseph after workers from the Ministry of Agriculture’s Horticulture Division removed her belongings and partially destroyed the makeshift tent she and her husband have been living in at the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port-of-Spain.
Joseph, 57, and her husband, Wendell, 64, an ex-boxer, set up their tent at the savannah yet again after claiming they were chased out of their Housing Development Corporation (HDC) home at Tarodale, San Fernando, last year. The couple have been living in a tent opposite the exit from President’s House for approximately one month.
On Tuesday, however, Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat warned the ministry would be enforcing regulations which forbid dwelling at the savannah.
Yesterday, while Wendell was away meeting with his wife’s doctors in San Fernando, the Horticulture Division workers moved in and removed a tarpaulin, a cooler and other items. Erica, a double amputee, said paramedics who had been sent to test her blood pressure and sugar had to intervene to stop the act.
“They take the water cooler that had the drinks and my medicine in it to keep it cool,” Erica said.
She said one of the ministry workers insulted her, called her names and attempted to take away her doll and teddy bear.
“He take the sheet, the sweet soap and he grab my children (dolls). I fight for my children. Them is the only thing that give me courage,” she said.
Boxing promoter Boxu Potts intervened and asked the workers for Erica’s items. Potts said he was there to support Wendell, noting he was a former boxer who had represented T&T and had been the national light heavyweight champion at one time.
“I am asking Dr Rowley to let good sense prevail and use his office and take care of the citizens of this country,” Potts said.
“They were taking the woman food, drinks and her clothing and I told them to give it to me. You can’t remove her basic amenities and if you carrying her in a safe place take everything, but not everything she have to live with and leave her stranded.”
Contacted for comment, Rambharat confirmed workers from the Horticultural Division had visited the couple.
“The Ministry of Housing, from what they saying, is expecting to move them into an apartment soon and I asked them to contact Social Development,” he said.
Noting previous occasions when the couple had taken up residence in the savannah, the minister said: “It is not the place for anyone to be living with a medical condition.”
Attempts to contact Housing Minister Randall Mitchell for comment yesterday were unsuccessful yesterday.
But in a release last evening, the ministry said its team and medical personnel visited the Josephs to assess their circumstances, having met with them before, as a gesture of goodwill. It said despite the urging of the medical personnel, Erica, who uses a wheelchair, declined being taken to the Port-of-Spain General Hospital for examination. It said the couple also declined to be relocated to more suitable accommodations rpvided by the ministry.
It noted that the Josephs had been allocated at least six HDC houses over the years but issues cropped up and they have found themselves at the savannah for a third time. It noted, however, that it intends to enforce the regulation prohibiting people from residing in the savannah and will seek a resolution to the matter.