NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Despite wanting to have Hurricane Dorian shelters decommissioned by Christmas, Social Services Minister Frankie Campbell yesterday confirmed that the shelters will remain open through the holidays.
“It is difficult to give a definitive timeline when I’m not the sole person responsible for seeing it through to its end,” Campbell told reporters outside Cabinet.
“So you would appreciate that this is a multi-agency project. I’m manning the shelters. Other agencies are helping to prepare for the transition.
“So that was my desire and I continue to work daily along with my team, offering alternatives to shelterees.
“Those who qualify we are offering rental assistance that might enable them to get some form of independence to go on their own.
“But as long as they determine that they aren’t able to go anyplace else, then the government has a duty to live up to the commitment it made in the first instance and to continue to shelter them.”
In the aftermath of the Category 5 storm, thousands of people were evacuated from the storm ravaged areas – Grand Bahama and Abaco – and housed in shelters throughout New Providence.
As of last week, 497 shelterees still reside on two designated sites in New Providence: 380 at the Kendal GL Isaacs Gymnasium and three tents, and 117 at the Bahamas Academy Gymnasium.
Campbell said yesterday he could not give a cost at the time for how much the government is spending to operate the shelters.
“I don’t have a figure but I could say to you that it wasn’t a figure the government would have budgeted for,” he said.
“It isn’t anything that we anticipated and so the sooner we can stop that particular line of spending, we as the government would be pleased.”
When pressed on a timeline to decommission those designated sites, Campbell said, ”Like I would have indicated, personally, I was hoping that we would have done that before the Christmas.
“We continue to hope and the numbers are decreasing, so persons are taking the offer to receive the rental assistance and go into private accommodations.”
He also maintained that he is unaware how many in the shelter are undocumented migrants.
“In the aftermath of the hurricane, we gave assistance from a humanitarian point of view,” Campbell said.
“And so that was not an issue for me as a minister. That was not an issue for the social workers
“I’m sure that since then there’s been some categorization, but I personally can’t give the number. I’m not aware. “