‘The structure is coming down’
Mother seeks help to secure job, fix ramshackle home
With tears in her eyes, Shanakay Williams recalled being comforted by her son, who, at one year and six months, prayed for her, asking God to give her a better life as he looked at the terrible condition in which they were living.
At that time, a year and a half ago, the mother of four had sought refuge in the unfinished basement of a community member on Faith Home Road in Golden Spring, St Andrew, after she was reportedly evicted with her toddler son and 11-year-old daughter.
“It was rough. I cried nights, I cried days, and ... each night I went inside to lay down, my son say to me, ‘I am going to pray for you’, and he said, ‘Father God I am asking for a better life for my mom’,” a very emotional Williams recalled.
The basement they then occupied was not secured and three entrances were secured by zinc, leaving them open to the elements as they stayed there for a year.
Today, Williams’ situation has not improved much, although she has moved into new premises.
A Good Samaritan in the community saw the family’s deplorable living conditions and offered them a one-room board structure, which he believed was better than where they had been staying.
While expressing gratitude for the gesture, Williams said it is not entirely ideal and is seeking the public’s help to carry out repairs and also to secure a job to better care for her children.
“The structure is coming down, and there is a mango tree that fall on top of it already and you have two more trees … that can fall on the roof any time,” the 35-year-old mom told The Gleaner during a visit to her home on Tuesday. “It very shaky. The structure is weak and it can fall at any time.”
The room is small and cramped. Some of the beams holding up the zinc roof have loosened because of termite infestation as the pests also gnaw away at the door and windows. The roof is also not properly secured to the structure, with openings all around the building.
While there are no leaks in the roof, Williams said that she still has to set buckets whenever it rains as water blows in through the openings, including one near a window, leaving them terribly uncomfortable.
The family also has no bathroom or kitchen.
Williams has started construction for a kitchen, but given the current condition of the room, the mother said that she plans to use it for a bedroom instead and is seeking help to have it completed.
“I am asking for help to fix my structure so that my children can live comfortably and that no rain can wet them,” she appealed. “... Really and truly, I don’t want this roof to fall on them. If it even fall on me when mi alone deh here, but not on my children ‘cause probably I can survive, probably they won’t.”
Williams is currently unemployed, although she hustles at times doing odd jobs on construction sites.
Many nights, her children go to bed hungry as she is unable to buy food.
“It is sometimes stressing to hear your children cry and you don’t able to get it for the child to eat,” she admitted.
She is willing to work and has previously done domestic and landscaping jobs.
“Anything. I will jump around. I don’t sit down and I don’t lazy. I would go around and do anything to survive,” she said.
The mother is currently getting assistance with lunch for her son and dinner for both children by Dwayne Dubidad, principal of the Stony Hill Infant and Primary School, where her son attends.
As for her daughter, who attends school in Duhaney Park, Williams said she is unable to send her for the entire week but tries to at least have her attend classes for two or three days weekly.
The poor attendance, she admitted, has affected her daughter’s studies and she wants to transfer her to a school in Stony Hill.
Williams has hit a hurdle in seeking help under the State’s Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) as she does not possess critical documents to collect assistance from PATH for her children.
She told The Gleaner that she does not have a birth certificate as she was delivered at home and the Registrar General’s Department has no record of her birth. She is clueless as to what to do.
She also does not have a taxpayer’s registration number.
According to her, she had a voter’s ID card, which she previously used to use to collect the PATH payment. But she began encountering problems trying to collect a few years ago after it has been routed to the Jamaica National Money Shop. At the moment, she is not sure if her children are still enrolled on the programme.
Dubidad said Williams’ plight was brought to his attention by a guidance counsellor and he was most concerned after he was told that the children were going to bed hungry at nights. Also concerning, he said, is the state of the house, which is falling apart, and the absence of a toilet at the home.
Since then, he said that the school has undertaken to assist the little boy with lunches and dinners for him and his sister. The school also assist the mother with lunch money and bus fare for the older child at times.
However, he said those efforts are not sustainable as there are times when the school is not open.
As such, Dubidad said, “We want her to get some help. I hope she can get something sustainable, where she can look after herself and the children, but until that time, we will try our best as a school to do what we can to ensure that the children at least do not go to bed hungry.”
How you can help
Shanakay Williams can be reached at 876-290-9590. You may also reach out to Principal Dwayne Dubidad at the Stony Hill Infant and Primary School.