NASSAU, BAHAMAS – An anonymous sponsor has come forward to cover the housing costs of nearly 65 Hurricane Dorian evacuees who were evicted from the El Greco Beach Hotel.
The sponsor will pay for those families to stay at the Courtyard Marriott for three days and will also cover the costs for first, last, security deposits and rent for six months.
Eyewitness News reported that ousted families were informed by the hotel management on Friday that their shelter agreement had come to a close and that arrangements needed to be made for relocation.
Evacuees were initially told that they would be accommodated for six months, but the time was cut short.
After seeking assistance from the Department of Social Services on Monday, dozens of Abaconians met at the Hilton Hotel with a community group called “Abaco Will Rise” to discuss the way forward.
Denalee Penn-Mackey, a native Abaconian and one of the group’s members, said the meeting was held so evacuees could be able to express their concerns and their immediate needs.
“A lot of them were served a bitter cup,” Penn-Mackey said.
“They were here since the storm but have now been asked to leave and they had absolutely no place to go.
“We of course had to step in and they will be resting comfortably, only for three days, at the Marriott right next door.
“However, at that meeting, we had a Canadian, our sponsor, she asked to remain anonymous and she has indicated that all of these families that have been displaced, that we can go ahead and find apartments for them and she will cover the cost of the apartment, first last and security and also up to six months’ rent. Now that is remarkable.
“…There are families that have persons in their party that have blind and disabled people. And so how can’t you have a heart. How can you sit back and watch this happen without trying to step in to help?”
With only a few days to find those families new homes, Penn-Mackey said she and her team of two will launch an aggressive search for vacant apartments.
“We don’t have any particular area,” she said.
“Of course we would want to find places that may be centrally located, maybe on a bus line because of lot of these residents don’t have vehicles and a lot of the children are in school and so we’d want to find apartments that would be easy for them and accessible to food stores and maybe even to the wash houses.
“…And I’m hoping that someone out there is listening and you may want to donate a few cars to these residents, we welcome it.
“In fact, if there are any other donations that you want to extend, we welcome it. We want it whatever it is. You don’t have to give us money.”
Jennifer Saunders, a 46-year-old resident from Dundas Town Abaco said her home was “totally demolished” and she lost everything.
Saunders said she has her mother, niece, nephew and 54-year-old blind brother who need assistance.
She thanked the El Greco Hotel for sheltering them for the past three months and offered gratitude and graciousness to the people who have now come to help them.
“I am so grateful and heart warmed that they came to our aid,” Saunder said.
“If they didn’t, I don’t know what the first plan would have been today but God stepped in and rendered their assistance.”
She said they had all expected this Christmas season to be bleak but the good news has changed that outlook.
“I was down. But now I feeling a little bit better knowing my family could be somewhere. It feels better.”
Saunders’ brother, Craig Cooper, who is mostly blind, lost sight in one eye as a result of his glaucoma. The vision in his other eye is also failing.
Cooper said the ordeal has been, “really, really rough”.
“It’s difficult to be handicapped,” he added.
“You can’t get where you want to go. It’s just difficult.”
Cooper said he and his family were in Abaco during the passage of the storm.
“The place where we were, part of the roof come off and we had to run to another place where we spend the storm,” he recalled.
“I was told at the time that ain’t no roof was on that and a gentleman spoke to us in there to calm us. I think if he hadn’t said what he said, we would have been further damaged.”
After being informed that they now had a guaranteed place to live, Cooper said, “That feels like a big burden just roll off. It’s difficult when you don’t know what the next step will be and then somebody comes to your rescue.”
He added however that, “I feel like the government should have done more than they did. By that, they didn’t come to our rescue after they heard we was getting put out, I feel like they should have come to our rescue.”
Cooper further thanked Penn-Mackey and her team for their assistance.