Oh for a house!
The Christmas breeze is a welcome treat for many Jamaicans, but not so for Yvonne Reid, who fears that a strong wind could topple the three-bedroom board structure she now occupies with her common-law husband, five grandchildren, and mentally ill son.
"Like how di breeze deh here a blow, all mi think about is the house," Reid told The Sunday Gleaner.
Memories of their house caving in five years ago are still fresh in the minds of family members and there is no doubt that the makeshift structure they established in the aftermath of that disaster could suffer a similar fate any day now.
"The house come down on us and we had to just leave from there and come over here, and by the time we leave from over there and come over here, one night everything just caved in," said the senior citizen.
In their desperation to have a shelter, Reid said she and her common-law husband of more than 30 years started building with whatever zinc and board they were able to salvage. Now after surviving numerous natural disasters, the structure is slowly coming apart.
"It is no good, because the inside of the boards are all eaten out by chi-chi (termites). Sometimes the board drop out, I have to take them up and nail them back. You can stay in here and look outside," said Reid of the house they currently occupy.
"I would just like a house. As you can see, this one is of no good. When it rains, it pours in," she said.
The family now leases the land on which the first structure was built, as well as the land their current house occupies along Spanish Town Road. This is because they still have hopes of rebuilding a sturdier house on the first plot of land.
"If we leave it alone and don't pay for it when January comes - because it's every January we pay for it - and January comes and we don't pay the lease, there is somebody willing to get the spot and pay for it," explained Reid's common-law husband, Ernest Clarke.
"Sometimes we have to take the little food money and do without to have the little roof over our heads and to keep the spot in case we get a house," said Reid.
Life has been rough for the couple who have four children. Eight years ago, they lost one of their daughters to a terminal illness and had to take in her child. Then in April of this year, they lost another daughter and took in her four children. They also have to care for their 31-year-old son, who is mentally challenged, while their other son has not been able to secure a steady job.
The elderly woman said she received assistance from some "good people" to help with the burials, and individuals such as her landlord have been very understanding of their issues. However, every day brings a fresh round of concern for the family as there is no steady source of income.
"I used to wash people dirty clothes and go and clean, but mi can't manage it again, because my joints pain me sometimes," explained Reid.
She is heavily dependent on the $2,000 she gets every other month for each child through the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH), but with so many mouths to feed, this allocation doesn't last long.
"When I get that little PATH money now, I just stretch it the longest way to go the last mile. I have some little people who would round up a little package here and a little package there, and sometimes I get a little money. Although it's not of much consequence, it still helps. As old time people say, 'Small mercies, thankfully received'," she said.
According to Reid, the children's fathers make contributions to varying degrees, with some making no contribution at all while others sometimes taking care of their children. But despite the daily struggles, her major concern is for them to have a proper roof over their heads.
"If I could get the house, that would be the greatest thing. If we could get a house and don't even have no Christmas food, I would be so glad. I would a prefer get the house than to have Christmas dinner. Believe me, miss, believe me. That is my greatest wish right now," she insisted.
Meanwhile, her common-law husband said they would be just as happy if they get some lumber to build a house for the family.