‘Nowhere to go’ - Port Royal residents face homeless Christmas as bulldozers rev up for demolition
Residents of Port Royal who may be homeless for Christmas are making last-minute pleas for more time to relocate from Foreshore Road as bulldozers are expected to demolish at least nine houses and three businesses at the seaside town today.
The buildings are being knocked down to facilitate the development of the township, which is expected to result in increased economic opportunities, upgraded infrastructure, and improved technology.
The affected residents, who have admitted to occupying the property illegally, some for decades, were reportedly issued with an eviction notice in January and were expected to vacate the premises by April 23.
Months later, residents like André Kelly, who have lived there for more than 30 years, are still on the property despite the cloud of uncertainty, heightened by Saturday’s arrival of a demolition team around 6 a.m.
“I don’t have nowhere to go. That’s why I don’t make a move. I don’t have nowhere to go,” said Kelly, who lives with his daughters aged 10 and six.
The fisherman told The Gleaner that he erected a concrete structure where his mother’s wooden house once stood. He contends that authorities have offered them no alternatives.
“Nobody, no MP (member of parliament). Nobody. Nobody come and say anything to us, and you see me spend my little savings and build me thing,” said Kelly.
“Dem don’t’ come and say, ‘All right, den mi a go give yuh back some money. Mi a go try put you somewhere.’ Nobody come and say, ‘Boy.’ You just come and say, boom, you a go lick it down,” he added, asking for more time to consider his options.
No new home
Like Kelly, 66-year-old single parent Beris Brown has also been unable to find a new home after becoming aware of the eviction notice.
“I can’t find nowhere,” said Brown as he gave our news team a tour of his business, where he sells fish.
Brown, who has a 10-year-old son, said he supports the imminent development of the town but insists that the residents must come first.
“I don’t mind the tourism, but look out for us, the Port Royalists first. Look out for us first. Help us because I don’t mind paying some money for where I am. Let us pay some tax, something ... . But [I have lived here] over thirty years [and] you gonna come and jus bulldozer we out like that?” he said.
When The Gleaner contacted Phillip Paulwell, member of parliament for Kingston Eastern and Port Royal, he said that he had made contact with the relevant authorities in an attempt to delay the demolition.
He further stated that there are lands to which residents could be relocated.
“There are some of them who do want to relocate into an area that has been designated for housing, and, in fact, there are 50 lots there that I have been asking the Government to pursue so that they can relieve the situation of crowding. And again, I believe to do the demolition before you sort out that housing situation is untimely,” Paulwell said.