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Gulfstream complex: living in uncertainty

Tough times: several residents are unsure about their future at the Gulfstream complex (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Locks were changed at a Bermuda Housing Corporation property yesterday, leaving several residents unsure as to where they would call home that night.

The move comes one day after an eviction deadline was issued to at least one tenant at the Gulfstream transitional living complex in St David’s.

Mother to a young daughter, the woman, who asked not to be identified, said she received the letter informing her that she must vacate by February 15 roughly two weeks prior.

Five to ten other building residents received similar letters, the woman said.

“Today they came around and changed all of the evicted families’ locks,” the woman said Thursday afternoon.

Pictures sent to The Royal Gazette showed what appeared to be a man with power tools changing out door mechanisms inside the building.

The woman said she and other residents who have had their locks changed were staying inside their apartments.

“We are living in fear of the police showing up to escort us away from the premises only to have to sleep outside in the trees. It’s very unsettling.

“We’ve exhausted all of our resources with living with family or friends or renting a place together as everyone is struggling.”

The letter, signed by Desiree A. O’Connor, Support Services Manager at BHC, indicates an arrears amount of more than $16,000.

The woman said she was in the middle of applying for financial assistance when the letter arrived. She was ultimately denied, she said, because her younger sister was due to receive an inheritance in several years. The building, which overlooks the airport along Southside Road, had 83 rooms when the Government repurposed the former United States Military barracks back in 2008.

In August, a last-minute reprieve was granted by Craig Cannonier, Minister of Public Works, to prevent a similar eviction of tenants from occurring.

“Despite tremendous efforts from the Bermuda Housing Corporation to arrange meetings with clients to discuss options and/or set up payment plans, there are some clients who refuse to comply with requests for meetings or adhere to promises made, leaving no other option but to issue eviction notices to those who refuse to comply,” a Public Works Ministry spokesperson said in a statement provided to The Royal Gazette on Wednesday.

“These actions are not taken lightly and only after all other options have been explored.”

“They say that we don’t contact them to update them about our situation,” the woman said.

“We tell them the same thing everyday — there are no jobs, the jobs that we are applying for we can’t get. It’s like a never ending, impossible process.

“They expect us to agree to pay $150 a week, to where some of us only make $50 a week.”

Sheelagh Cooper, with the Coalition for the Protection of Children, said the renewed attempt to evict building residents is concerning to the organisation “for a number of reasons”.

“For the 110 women and children who have been placed there this was the place of last resort that was offered to them when they are homeless,” she said.

“For many of these women the situation is just as dire financially as it was when they arrived. Unfortunately, this has meant that many of them have fallen into arrears and are now facing a return to a life of homelessness.”

According to Ms Cooper, building residents are forced to deal with undrinkable water, and mould-related issues caused by leaks.

There is also no laundry facilities, Ms Cooper said, and playrooms in the building on each floor have remained locked for nearly two years.

“The bottom line really is that the conditions are such that every woman in that facility dreams of the day that they can support themselves in proper accommodations,” Ms Cooper said.

“They say that because we aren’t paying them the upkeep of the building stays down,” the tenant said. “We’re not paying our money, so why should they repair or fix anything around here?”

“The question we must ask ourselves is whether pushing these mothers with a return to homelessness improves the lives of their children,” Ms Cooper said.

“Can we as a wealthy community not serve our most vulnerable children and families with more compassion and support than this?”

“Getting out of Bermuda is our only option,” the building tenant said.

“We will do anything to get our girls away from this life.”

Additional reporting by Jonathan Bell