Future for Dorian evacuees at shelters remains unclear

Future for Dorian evacuees at shelters remains unclear
Jean Joseph

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – After nearly three months in government shelters, some Hurricane Dorian evacuees are still contemplating their uncertain futures.

Jean Joseph, a Kendal G. L. Issacs gymnasium shelter resident from East Grand Bahama, told Eyewitness News Online to stay positive despite not knowing where he will be in the New Year.

The 49-year old said his aunt, uncle and nephew have not been seen since the hurricane.

“We get in our head they’re gone,” Joseph said.

“They passed away because they searched the island, they didn’t find nothing where their house was by the sea.”

Despite the devastation he has been through thus far, Joseph said he is grateful just to be alive.

However, his biggest concern is the welfare of his children.

“I know they about to close the shelter at the end of this month and I’m not expecting the government to put a home over my head; they’ve done enough by feeding me, keeping me safe until this moment.”

Joseph said he has been out looking for a job but hasn’t gotten anything back yet.

“My kids need me. I have to keep pushing.”

Joseph was born in Kenya, Africa, and reportedly holds permanent residency.

His mother is a Bahamian citizen.

Prior to the storm, Joseph worked as teacher where he taught agriculture, mathematics and more.

He said he also worked with a tour company doing translations in one of the eight languages he speaks.

“After three months now, after everything I’ve tried, I’m not able to do anything to assist them,” Joseph continued.

“And as a father, it’s not like I can’t do things, but coming to a place like Nassau, I don’t know anyone, and it’s after a hurricane, it’s a whole entire process for me.

“That’s the reason why at the gym where I’m staying, when I realize so many things come at me at once, I say I got to fight back in a positive way.”

He said days after coming to Nassau and seeing the reality of those at the gym, he knew he had to do something to get involved, not only for those staying in the shelter but for his own mental peace. 

As a result, Joseph said he started picking up trash and cleaning up the surrounding area and started activities for the children such as soccer, martial arts and other activities.

“I thought let’s organize ourselves, let’s bring entertainment every weekend, because your parent, your mommy, your daddy might be depressed but let’s be their joy while we are in the shelter,” he added.

“…That’s the mindset that’s keep us going since the second week I got in the shelter.”

He maintained however that the “wall closing in now as [time is] winding down. “We getting out there. We don’t know what we are going to do.”

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.

The government had said that shelters were going to be decommissioned before Christmas, but that move was postponed.

It remains unclear what will happen to those shelterees after the designated sites are closed.

Over at the Wulff Road shelter, people can also be seen just roaming the compound.

A group of men play dominoes under a tree. A group of women set up a makeshift salon where shelterees get manicures and pedicures.

Techelete Casimir, 56, said they are just trying to survive.

“We don’t have any problem here,” said Casimir, who was born in The Bahamas.

“Everything we need, you get everything here. So now they can survive, the government provide everything you need.”

The father of five described the three-month ordeal as traumatizing.

He said he was in Abaco, in a church, during the storm, when the building collapsed.

“One of the wall was blown down,” Casimir recalled. “The church collapsed at the same time [and] all I see was the block breaking down, dropping down on the floor.  It just look like pieces.”

He said he didn’t recall much after that because he had to be rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard and brought to Nassau to the hospital.

He said he suffered a broken leg and other injuries.

Casimir expressed gratitude for everything that has been done for him in the aftermath of the deadly tragedy.

“I didn’t spend one dollar out my pocket,” he said.

“All I could say is praise the Lord.”