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LETTER OF THE DAY - The making of a squatter community

Published:Friday | February 19, 2010 | 12:00 AM

"CAN YOU you tell me how to get that man out of my house?" A weary middle-age woman posed the question to a senior police officer at a recent neighbourhood watch meeting in Caribbean Terrace several weeks ago. "He's been squatting in there for a while now and I can't seem to get help to get him out."

This is just one of the cries of residents living in the hurricane-ravaged community.

Last year April, Housing Minister Dr Horace Chang gave us an alarming statistic: one-third of the entire population or 900,000 Jamaicans are squatters!

Many law-abiding citizens will question how squatters are allowed to settle in a community and eventually gain the legitimacy to have legal light and water connection.

However, when one looks at Caribbean Terrace, they will know how a squatter settlement is allowed to grow and thrive. No real help is coming from the police, the politician or the other authorities who are in a position to do something about it.

Many of the houses ravaged by hurricanes Dean and Ivan are now being occupied by vagrants and squatters.

The woman who posed the question to the policeman at our meeting looks forlornly at her house from a distance. She was one of those forced to move as her house was destroyed by the last hurricane. However, she left many pieces of her furniture battened up in a room at the house. Those were stolen. A man has now taken possession of her house and she can't get him out. He enters and leaves through the back of the building.

Sadly, her case is not an isolated one. Earlier this week, another resident sees the police patrolling the community: "How do I get those thugs out of my house around the corner?" she asks. The policemen listen for a while and drive off. The woman, with a dejected look on her face, walks off in the opposite direction towards her dilapidated house.

Strange-looking thugs

It's now a common sight to see many strange- looking thugs walking through the community, mostly in the dead of night and at the crack of dawn, leaving and entering those abandoned buildings.

They steal water where they can and bridge light in very creative ways. They use the bushes to relieve themselves.

Several weeks ago, the police say they found several rounds of ammunition in an abandoned lot at Caribbean Terrace. Bullets in our community, many ask? That's unheard of! But what do you expect? This is the beginning of the making of a squatter community!

I am, etc.,

Concerned Resident