Great Commission sounds alarm on mounting homelessness crisis

Great Commission sounds alarm on mounting homelessness crisis
Bishop Walter Hanchell (FILE PHOTO)

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Great Commission Ministries President Bishop Walter Hanchell yesterday sounded the alarm over growing housing crisis, as his ministry sees a significant increase in people needing shelter and food due to the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

Hanchell said the demand at Great Commission has continued to grow steadily.

“It’s always crowded, so many persons are still without food, without shelter,” he said.

“We have more people coming in now for accommodations that we ever did before.

“We are facing a food crisis where people definitely lack food, need food, it’s not sufficient.

“All of the agencies are packed, including Great Commission, but I think we have a problem developing that’s going to be even greater than the food problem, and that is the sheltering problem.

“We need to look at that now before we hit a crisis with accommodations.”

Hanchell urged the government to start a more aggressive rental assistance program.

The government declared a state of emergency on March 17, following the confirmation of the country’s first positive COVID-19 case. Wide sweeping emergency orders including curfew, lockdowns, restriction of movement, and the closure of non-essential establishments were implemented.

As a result, hotels were closed, businesses were shuttered and thousands of people became unemployed.

The country attempted to reopen its borders to international travel on July 1, however soon after there was a significant increase in cases, with Grand Bahama becoming a hot spot, forcing the government to reinstate lockdown measures.

On Monday, the prime minister announced an immediate full lockdown for New Providence and extended the lockdown for Grand Bahama for another week.

However, after harsh public backlash, the prime minister reversed the decision on Tuesday, indicating that a weather system was developing and stores would be open for residents to prepare.

Hanchell was among several figures to call on the government to reverse its decision and allow people to prepare for the lockdown.

“I believe the prime minister in retrospect when he looked at the decision he made, he realized that it was a bad decision, a very poor decision,” he said.

“It was very inhumane and cost a lot of hardships to so many persons.

“…That was a very oppressive move that the prime minister did. You can’t have people in their own suffering lockdown.”

Hanchell applauded the prime minister for walking back the decision.

“He listened and he rescinded. He changed it, he amended it and now people could breathe.”

He noted that after the prime minister’s announcement, so many people were calling Great Commission for food, afraid to leave their homes.

He said the organization made food deliveries on Tuesday to families in need and made its usual rounds to people on the streets who have no homes, hadn’t eaten and also need food.

“We cooked a whole lot of food and we distributed food to persons on the street and we drove throughout all of the neighborhoods and over the hill,” Hanchell said.

“We fed a lot of people on Potters Cay who are homeless. We do that every day.”

He continued, “People don’t know how bad it is in this country. Things need to change. The poor need attention. The homeless need provision. We need jobs to start up again. They have to really get the financial aid going. Some of the things that they can fix.

“We are just trying to do our part and try to get our officials to do their part in helping those among us who are most vulnerable and who are really hurting and suffering.”

Among the dozens of people seeking aid at Great Commission yesterday, was a Filipino migrant family in search of food.

One of the men, who did not want to be named, indicated that they have been living in the country for more than five years and that he did construction.

He said his job had closed down and that he has not worked since the state of emergency in March.

He added that it is getting harder and harder to feed his family and hopes the country can reopen soon so that he can find work.