Everton Phillips searches for a place to call home
It is often said that there is no place like home, but the place Everton Phillips calls home is a little shack tucked away in a corner of the Park Lee community in South West St Elizabeth. The structure barely protects him from the elements, but this is the only place he has to rest his head.
When nature calls, Phillips said he has to go in search of a place to use the bathroom which he sometimes finds at a nearby shop. His bathing area is a spot beside his house where he places a container from which he dips water to cleanse himself and his kitchen is an area where he builds a fire to cook his meals.
The 61-year-old, who is a broom maker, said he has always known that spot as home, as growing up, he lived at his grandmother's house, which was built there. He said it was when Hurricane Gilbert destroyed the house that had been there that he was left without a proper dwelling place.
"From in my youth, ah me old man old place this. Storm blow down me granny old house, ah the board and thing [from the old house] we take make up this house.
"When me see the rain ah setup mi always run go out [to find shelter] cause the rain will wet me up, so mi take a walk 'til the rain cool off. In there will wet up, but you can't do better, you know. It better you sit down on the wet [place that] belongs to you than to go on somebody's place that is dry," Phillips told Rural Xpress.
After years of enduring such conditions, Phillips is pleading for a helping hand.
Jamaica Labour Party caretaker for South West St Elizabeth, Floyd Green, said that Phillips is one of two people in the Park Lee Community who are in desperate need of immediate assistance.
"Seeing the condition that Mr Philips lives in really brought tears to my eyes. There were two situations that I came across in Park Lee of residents really living in. Substandard is really too good a word to describe the condition, and clearly it is not by choice, but because they are unable to afford something more. It really brings into focus the level of poverty in our country and just the level of suffering that some of our people are going through.
"When you see Mr Phillips, even though he has what he calls a house he is open to the elements. It's really a sad state and I think what we have to do is find a way to ensure that our social safety-net programmes are really getting to the least fortunate among us and really get the impression that that is not happening," Green lamented.
He went on to say that he was of the belief that when poverty is spoken of persons think of urban areas and that those where the places that most attention was given.
"Again, what I feel is that the urban areas are paid a lot of attention while the rural areas are often left behind and we need a complete rethinking of how we allocate in relation to our social safety-net programmes [and] also how we view poverty. I get the impression that every time we talk about poverty in Jamaica, we talk about our inner cities not our rural communities and we need to shift that focus.
"I hope that someone or some group will really reach out to Mr Philips and the other person in the Park Lee community, who is in dire need of some housing solution and from the constituency executive for the Labour Party we will be seeing what we can do to raise some funds to help in that regard," Green said.