Published On: Sat, Nov 2nd, 2019

Hurricane shelter project closes in January – and its residents have nowhere to go

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PHILIPSBURG – The shelter former Minister Emil Lee established in Sucker Garden after Hurricane Irma is scheduled to close down by the end of January next year. There are still forty hurricane-victims in the shelter that have nowhere to go. Through its Cole Bay Housing Project the shelter’s manager – the Dr. J. Foundation – is attempting to raise $45,000 for the repair of eight homes.

“We are trying to renovate eight homes in Cole Bay,” says Dorian Neijs, case manager at the Dr. J. Founation. “They are good, concrete homes and we want to put eight families there that are currently in the shelter. We are busy raising funds for the renovation and we’re asking people to help. We have been talking to the Rotary and to businesses asking them for assistance.”

Neijs says that there is a need for basic necessities like kitchens, toilets, tiles and doors. When materials become available, volunteers will be able to fix the homes within the next two to three months. “It is a shame that two years after the hurricane people are still in this shelter. Until this day people come in asking for intakes because they are still homeless.”

Those people, Neijs says, live on the street and sleep on the beach. “Families want their privacy back. This is really sad.”

Readers who want to donate to this cause will find all information on the foundation’s website under the donations tab.

Cleopatra Halley - Photo Tim van DijkThere are currently around forty people in the shelter, says Cleopatra Halley, psychologist at the Dr. J. Foundation. “They need to be re-integrated but the prices for rent are ridiculous. We have not received any funding from the World Bank. Hopefully they will consider this because I think that this situation is an absolute disgrace. This is nothing to be proud of.”

But for now, the foundation’s hopes are focused on donations from the local community – from private citizens, businesses and organizations like the Rotary. “Hopefully we will raise enough money and awareness to enable us to also help in Belvedere and in other places where help is still needed,” Halley says. “Other homes that are not in this program also need immediate repair. This is not just about eight families; many more people need help as well.”

Dr. J. Foundation - Hurricane Irma Reintegration Program (30)Dr. Judith Arndell, who founded the Dr. J. Foundation together with four other professionals says that the organization is under pressure with its efforts to place hurricane-victims back in the community. “We operated this shelter in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Health, Social Affairs and Labor (VSA). This was a two-year project that started after Hurricane Irma. We will now be closing within the next couple of months.”

Arndell says that the foundation is currently looking for help from businesses and private citizens to get materials and labor for the repair of the homes in Cole Bay. “We want to move people in there as quickly as possible. And there are still so many houses in need of repair. We are working on this with the government; they are in contact with the World Bank to see what they can do. Our deadline is the end of January. By then we want everybody out of the shelter and back into the community.”

Article continues after the video:

Click here to view the video on Facebook and like, comment and share this video by Tim van Dijk

Jeneva is one of the hurricane-victims who still lives at the shelter in Sucker Garden. “I have been here for almost two years now,” she says. I am not working and at my age nobody wants to employ me. So I don’t have any money to pay rent.”

Amy is another shelter-resident. She lives together with her four children – three girls and a boy. “I am looking for a house but it is too expensive. Some landlords don’t want kids or pets. So it is very hard to find a home right now.”

“I don’t know where I would go,” Jeneva says, though she is looking ahead. “In the future I want to get out. I want to be on my own.”

All Amy has is hope: “I am wondering where I will go to live because I have nowhere to go. I don’t know how I see my future, but there is still hope.”


Photo caption: Members of the Rotary Club showing their support to bring awareness for the donation drive of the Dr. J. Foundation. Photo by Tim van Dijk.


Relevant links:
Watch the video on Facebook and like, comment and share this video
Dr. J. Foundation’s website
Dr. J. Foundation urges community to donate to the Hurricane Irma Reintegration Program
Former Minister Ferrier: “The trust fund is failing”
Transition-shelter: a place for privacy, dignity and respect

Editor’s Note: Please make a donation!

The Dr. J. Foundation’s deadline for the Hurricane Irma Reintegration Program is the end of January and they are urging the whole of St. Maarten to donate in order to help these people get back into the community. If you want to make a donation, you can do so at WIB NAF Bank Account number 081482807 or BDC NAF Bank Account number 050247501 in the name of Dr. J. Foundation.