Shelter Life: Out of Options

Shelter Life: Out of Options

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Every time Telisna Poemilien, 47, awakens, she is instantly reminded of the loss of her long-time boyfriend, her home and livelihood.

The 47-year-old Hurricane-Dorian evacuee, who resided in The Mudd, Abaco, now depends on the Kendal G.L. Isaacs gymnasium for shelter; its staff for food, and her brother, who visits daily, for the few dollars he can provide by doing odd jobs.

Dorian laid waste to the shantytown and other portions of Abaco on September 1 when the deadly storm made landfall and squatted over northwest Bahamas for the next three days.

Poemilien’s sister and brother-in-law died less than two years ago, making her the guardian of four girls — ages 16, 15, 11 and eight.

Eager for normalcy, but without the means to start over, Poemilien has spent the last three weeks walking the facility and sleeping, she told Eyewitness News Onlinewhile sitting on a concrete slab in front of the shelter. Her brother Henson Baptiste served as a translator.

“Sleeping; lay down every day — that’s it,” she said. “I walk this way, go inside [and] come outside.”

On the conditions inside the shelter, Baptiste, said described a cramped living space, with his sister sleeping on mattresses with four young girls within a few feet of strangers.

“Life in there now is very terrible for the people in there because the people who were in Abaco they had a house, but the house broke down,” Baptiste said.

“They had their little business and the business broke down. Everything was just mashed up. The people came in there (the shelter), and they only put them there and give them food. That’s not really a life, but because the hurricane came, they took it like that.”

“Mash potatoes, meatball, water every day,” Poemilien said of the meals.

“I [have been here] 25 days. No juice. No good food. No clothes. I have nothing.”

With only the clothes on her back and few in a small bag she managed to bring from Abaco, Poemilien said she and many others routinely turn the washroom into a makeshift laundry, using a bucket of water and soap to wash by hand.

When the area is congested, she washes outside.

The pair told Eyewitness News Online the way forward remains unclear.

“They don’t know how long they are going to be there,” Baptiste added.

Poemilien lost her Bahamian birth certificate during the storm, but has been able to replace it.

Her older brother — Odieu Baptiste — lost his Bahamian passport and is also seeking to replace it. Both speak very little English and rely on their brother to translate for them with officials.

Fees have been waived for the renewal or replacement of passports for storm victims from Abaco and Grand Bahama.

When asked if she has ventured beyond the sporting complex, Poemilien said, “No”.
Asked why not, she said she was fearful of crime in New Providence.

“I’m scared too much; [there are] too many thieves in Nassau,” she said.

Baptiste added: “Here is okay because there is security here. Going in the street and walking, no. You know the people who live on the island are very scared of the town.”

 

Loss

 

Poemilien and her older brother Odieu evacuated The Mudd ahead of the storm, but she said her boyfriend stayed behind in a neighboring home.

The structure was flattened as Dorian lashed the island with over 185 mph winds and sea surge of over 20 ft.

“My boyfriend passed. I left before him,” she said.

Her brother said they don’t know if his body was recovered.

“The water carried him, we don’t know,” Baptiste said.

“You can’t identify the house when you go in there. Everything is mashed up.

“Everything looks as one and you can’t identify [if] that’s your house or if that’s your house.”

According to the government, 3,500 people lived in the six shantytowns on Abaco, the largest of which were The Mudd and The Peas.

Those communities were decimated.

The government has evacuated more than 5,000 people from Grand Bahama and Abaco since the storm.

At last report, there were just under 1,600 people in shelters throughout New Providence.

The government has issued a cease order that seeks to prevent anyone from building or developing in the shantytown communities in Abaco.