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Children sleep on roadside

News day / During the night, the families had to not only contend with swarms of mosquitoes but also the criminal element as they had no choice but to sleep in the open having absolutely nowhere else to stay. Some slept outside the building while others slept closer to the road. During the course of the night, rain fell. While the displaced families spent today trying to get alternative accommodation, for some, they will have to once again spend the night under the stars.

When Newsday returned to Harmony Hall yesterday, children were seen sitting on mattresses, some drinking infant formula from bottles.

The homeless families again apologised for illegally occupying the condemned structures and begged Housing Minister Randall Mitchell to, “have a heart” and give them a fair hearing as they push to be placed on the ‘emergency housing’ list.

“I cried last night as I watched my baby on a mattress, knowing that as of now he has no place to live. It hurts as a mother to watch your child on a mattress on the side of the road,” Alyssa Phillip said.

Phillip, 24, who is a student at the University of West Indies (UWI) pursuing Criminology, said she is ready to face whatever criticisms from the public. “Until you walk in my shoes…don’t judge me. What can I do? We who you see out here, we are not criminals or thieves.

We are families struggling to make ends meet and create a better life for our young ones. Yes, what we did was wrong…we admit that. But why treat us like dogs and make us feel dehumanised? You have thrown babies and toddlers out on the road just so,” she said.

The families said that no notices were given by the HDC of the planned eviction exercise which saw heavily armed police accompany HDC officials to the five buildings to begin the eviction process.

Mother of six Malika Lewis, 35, said her youngest child Darius, three, developed a cold after he was soaked in the rain on Monday. “We had to sleep on a mattress and rain was falling and my children were on the mattress,” she said. Lewis, a single parent said that ten years ago she applied to the HDC for a State house.

“I admit it. I took a chance coming here. But I did what I did after not hearing from the State over the years. I would go to the HDC almost every week and kept being told my case was not an emergency.

Well I am on the road. My children are on the road. Is my case still not an emergency” she asked.

A HDC official yesterday told Newsday the residents were informed on numerous occasions that they were occupying these buildings illegally. The families disregarded our notices, the official said, so they have nobody to blame but themselves for the predicament they are in. Efforts to contact Housing Minister Mitchell yesterday for a comment proved futile.

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