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Family lives in 'tarpaulin house'

Published:Tuesday | August 11, 2015 | 11:29 AM
Fortella Pickersgill stands beside her makeshift house.
Inside Fortella Pickersgill's makeshift house.
A view of where Fortella Pickersgill calls home.

BULL BAY, St Andrew:

With the assistance of two chairs, a basket and a nearby tree, a blue tarpaulin provides a dwelling place for Fortella Pickersgill, her two grown daughters and a grandchild who is only one-year-old.

Located in Bull Bay, St Andrew, the makeshift house has provided shelter for the family of four for the past two months.

Pickersgill told The Gleaner that if someone had told her this would be the situation she would find herself in, she would not have believed.

"We've lived in Portmore for most of our lives, but then the rent became impossible to pay. My sister and I have been very close. In fact, we attended the same church here in Bull Bay," she said.

Having agreed to share space, Pickersgill and her children moved in with her sister, who lives in the vicinity of the church and tarpaulin home.

After living together for approximately seven months, something happened that changed their lives and the status of their relationship forever.

"While my sister and I were at church, we were informed that our children (her older daughter and her nephew) had an altercation which led to a fight," Pickersgill said, trying to recall the specifics of that notable day.

"After hearing her son's side of the story, my sister told us to get out of her house," she continued.

The family was then staying with a neighbour for a short while, but then was asked to leave as the people with whom they were staying were expecting relatives from abroad.

This, Pickersgill described as having a fresh cut irritated.

"It hurts me all over again," said the saddened woman.

With no place else to go and no one to call, Pickersgill had to resort to her daughter's desperate suggestion.

"My 22-year-old daughter looked at me and said, 'Mommy, I'm going to get a tarpaulin and we stay under it.'"

And that was exactly what was done.

"We put the tarpaulin up on an open lot across from where we used to stay. But then it began to rain and, of course, we were getting wet. I decided to put it up a different way and we used a chair and a basket to hold the tarpaulin up, then we nailed it to a tree. Now the rain's not coming in, but in the days when the sun is out, we get really hot. Sometimes I'd like to sleep, but I can't because of the heat," said Pickersgill.

She went on to explain that in the days, they go to shops or wherever they can get a shelter so that the baby can get a proper nap.

According to her: "Whenever time we want to use the bathroom, we have to go by a neighbour and ask them. If they say no, then we just have to move along and ask someone else. Some will allow us to bathe too, but if not, we try to full our bottles and bathe behind the tarpaulin."

Pickersgill showed The Gleaner the wood fire she uses to cook and also disclosed that there are days when they become overly dehydrated, with no money to buy beverage or water to drink.

Despite everything, she says she is still thanking God for life.

"I always pray. God is a good God in the good and bad times, I know He's gonna bring me through. I tell my children that better days are coming, all we have to do is trust God. Just like in the Bible, Job lost everything and then God blessed him sevenfold," said the faithful woman, explaining that her daughters express fear of being raped.

With help from a few friends, Pickersgill managed to dig a foundation to build a room. She's open to donations and is hopeful that God will hear her cry.