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Hustle Truck employees could turn to selling drugs worker

Hustle Truck employees could resort to selling drugs or relying on financial assistance to make ends meet if the programme is cancelled, suggests one worker.

The woman, who asked not to be named, said she has heard other workers say they would have to deal drugs or steal to make fast cash if their only source of income is taken from them.

“It is not a concern. That is what is going to happen. It's common sense. If you can't find a job here in Bermuda you need to pay for your bills and apartment so what's the next stop... financial assistance.

“Other options would be illegal things and the quickest, easiest way to go is to sell drugs and in some cases some will use that option.”

The Hustle Truck, launched by Government in March 2007, has given dozens of people a chance to get on their feet while job opportunities remain scarce. The woman said it was an outlet for a lot of young people to stay off the streets. She also said without the cash many would be in a dire financial position.

On Monday, Government MPs said that funding for the Hustle Truck programme had been cut to zero in the 201½012 Budget. During a debate in the House of Assembly, Health Minister Zane DeSilva urged the private sector to help keep the programme afloat.

The woman, who spoke to

The Royal Gazette after the news broke, said employees were devastated by the cut.

She said: “What hurts the most is it is so obvious to us workers. It's like they want us to fail. You have to know there are all these people out of work so why would you take this out of the equation all together? It doesn't make no sense.”

United Bermuda Party MP Charlie Swan also questioned why the programme was on the chopping block.

He said: “We believe the Hustle Truck programme was worthwhile. It addressed a variety of needs like getting people off the streets and earning a meaningful wage.

“It also obviated the temptation for some to peddle in the drug trade and was a possible route into gainful employment, thus enabling worthy contribution to our society.

“There is concern that those to whom the programme was aimed will fall back through the cracks at a time when Government is potentially less able to assist.”

He said if the programme was given the axe, more people could well end up seeking financial assistance, which would negate any saving outlined in the Budget. Personally, I believe it should be retained, managed differently, and perhaps under the auspices of a different department,” he added.

Mr Swan proposed that the scheme be moved from the remit of the Bermuda Housing Corporation and instead fall under the Small Business Development Corporation or Department of Labour and Training. He said both departments have goals that fit in with the aims of the Hustle Truck programme. Government could manage the programme so its services are paid for in part by the workers and it should engage the private sector, including charitable groups, to find funding, he said.

Others in the programme were also unhappy with the cut, the woman said. She said she would “get out there and push it even more” to find a job, but others were already considering resorting to criminal activity. “A lot of them are even more negative: ‘I guess I am going to have to sell drugs and resort to thieving to make ends meet or go on financial assistance to make it'.

“What are they going to do when the Hustle Truck gets taken away? What is the first next best thing? I know some are going that route, some will get financial assistance that is the next best thing.”

Shawn Crockwell, one of the founding members of the Bermuda Democratic Alliance (BDA) said his party is “very concerned” at the potential impact, adding : “

“The Hustle Truck was designed to be a bridge to full time employment but many utilize it as their only source of income. Without this income it is logical to assume that individuals would either turn to Financial Assistance or anti-social behaviour in order to support themselves.

“Financial Assistance had its budget cut so it will be limited in how much support it can provide to those in need.”

He said the BDA believed things could get significantly worse before they start to get better and said the loss of the Hustle Truck programme “may be the loss of hope for many of our people”.

To find out more about the programme or to become a sponsor call 236-0540.

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Published March 04, 2011 at 9:05 am (Updated March 04, 2011 at 9:05 am)

Hustle Truck employees could turn to selling drugs worker

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