Social Services “anxious” to transition evacuees to temporary relief site
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Minister of Social Services Frankie Campbell yesterday acknowledged conditions for hundreds of Hurricane Dorian evacuees living at the Kendal Isaacs Gymnasium is “definitely not ideal”.
However, Campbell told Eyewitness News Online his main concern was relieving social services workers who have been manning shelters before the deadly storm hit in early September, and continue to do so.
He was responding to a Ministry of Health Situation Report, dated October 25, which suggested the merging of storm victims may have presented a scabies challenge.
According to NEMA, there are 294 people housed at the gym, 346 in three tents on the ground, and another 137 at the Bahamas Academy Gym.
Campbell said he was not aware of the number of scabies cases that would have been treated, but explained the recommendation to consolidate shelters was based on the availability of space.
“My concern is predominantly trying to free as much of my staff from Social Services who were involved in manning of shelters prior to the passing of Dorian and are still manning the shelters,” he said.
“So, once the recommendation would have been made based on the availability of space that we could consolidate that opportunity was taken. No such concern was brought to me.
Campbell continued: “I’m satisfied if the Ministry of Health is on the case and dealing with the matter, that it’s in hand.
“I’ll say this. The situation is definitely not ideal because it’s not something that we would have prepared for or anticipated and I’ll have you know that based on what we have, we’re doing the best we can.”
The minister said the government hopes to deactivate all shelters and transition people back to Abaco and Grand Bahama in the shortest possible time.
“I’m advised that the persons responsible for setting up the temporary transitional homes in Abaco, that is being worked on, and so I’m pleased to hear that,” Campbell said.
“I’m looking for the green light for us to take those persons back home for them to be able to start participating in the actual cleanup and to be in the environment where they want to be, where they are most comfortable.”
The government has budgeted $6.4 million for its Family Relief Centre on Abaco.
Minister of State for Disaster Preparedness, Recovery and Restoration Iram Lewis has said those facilities will be occupied by Bahamians and documented individuals.
When asked if displaced storm victims in shelters in New Providence will be given some priority, Campbell said while a decision has not been made by the government, social services is “anxious to have them transition”.
He said: “I’m satisfied that if it is something that we’re providing, and when I say we [I mean] the government, and they are the people who are now in our care, it is more likely that they would be the persons going, but I don’t want to speak to that until a decision is made.
“But I would say, from the point of social services and our involvement in shelter management, we are just as anxious to have them transition back to their homes as they are to transition back home. So we work toward that.”
The first phase of the family relief centre will include an estimated 250 polycarbonate dome units.
The facility will span across 12 acres of land near Spring City, Abaco.
Thousands were displaced by the record storm, which decimated communities in Abaco and Grand Bahama on September 1-3.